Just looked at the rankings in the Power 2010 poll for the top five ideas for UK-political reform that candidates at the general election are going to be asked to support. As I write, I note with dismay that an elected second chamber is on the point of overtaking English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) as the fifth-most popular idea, which would mean that EVoEL would not be included in the Power 2010 pledge.
Of itself, this would not be much of a disaster given that EVoEL is a poor alternative to an English parliament, would probably be almost impossible to implement and could easily lead to a constitutional crisis. However, the idea of EVoEL is the only proposal in the Power 2010 poll that keeps the English Question on the agenda – the suggestion of an English parliament having been eliminated via a deliberative process in December whose validity I have questioned elsewhere (notably here).
In addition, the Conservatives reportedly abandoned their commitment to EVoEL yesterday and seem intent on completely ignoring the English Question as they fall over backwards to appear to have Scottish interests – including financial ones – very much at heart.
I’m sure some online campaign has got going for people to vote for an elected second chamber, as this proposal was more than 200 votes behind EVoEL when I looked yesterday but was only four behind when I visited the Power 2010 site a few moments ago. In itself, an elected second chamber is not a bad idea. But if it were introduced before the English Question is addressed, it would duplicate the West Lothian Question and increase the English democratic deficit. That’s because it would be a British second elected chamber comprising representatives from the devolved countries as well as England. So not only would non-English MPs be voting on English bills but so would would non-English senators, or whatever they’d be called.
That would absolutely tie England up in a constitutional double bind. Imagine, even if there were an English Grand Committee through which England-only bills had to pass before becoming law: those bills would still have to pass through the second chamber, which of course would see its role as protecting the interests of ‘the Union’ as a whole – i.e. making sure the devolved countries were well looked after and weren’t ‘disadvantaged’ by any English legislation. So not only could the views of English MPs – if EVoEL in some form came in – be vetoed by non-English MPs in the Commons but they’d also be subject to ‘revisions’ from non-English senators! I don’t hear any proposals for legislation from the Scottish, Welsh and N. Irish parliament / assemblies to be revised by this elected second chamber, which would at least even things out a bit. Can’t see that happening, can you?
We can’t let this scenario of a double WLQ even be contemplated, and we mustn’t let the English Question fall off the constitutional reform agenda altogether. So go to the link and cast your vote for EVoEL if you haven’t done so already!
The only ‘positive’ thing that could come out of an elected second chamber being ‘preferred’ to EVoEL is that it could accelerate the constitutional crisis that must inevitably result from the English Question being ignored and actively suppressed in the ‘interests’ of the Union. But I’d rather not suffer the indignity and the humiliation of seeing ‘reform’ go through that completely ignores the largest democratic deficit in Britain and the most gaping wound in our unwritten constitution. Plus it would be prolonging the agony and could well bring down the Union altogether in the long run.
But please don’t take that as an excuse not to vote for EVoEL!