Monday, July 03, 2006

Why Labour should embrace the idea of an English Parliament

First, some statistics. Here's the results of the last general election (2005), broken down by region:


Labour 286 seats
Tory 194 seats
Lib Dem 47 seats
Respect 1 seat
Ind 1 seat


Labour 41 seats
Lib Dem 11 seats
SNP 6 seats
Tory 1 seat


Labour 29 seats
Tory 4 seats
Lib Dem 3 seats
Plaid C 3 seats

Labour gained a clear overall majority in every single region. Therefore every single region is governed by the party they elected.

In terms of popular vote, Labour got 58,000 less votes in England than the Tories, due to turnout being low in safe Labour seats and high in Tory safe seats. But if Bromley and Chislehurst is any guide, this is about to change. It takes just a handful of Bromleys to cancel the small Tory lead in the popular vote. Remember too that in 1997 and 2001, Labour got 2.6 million and 1.35 million more votes in England than the Tories.

The myth that the Tories "have a majority" in England came about because some in the Tory party seized on the tiny popular lead over Labour in England (out of some 20million votes) to salve their egos after they got thrashed for the third time. This myth has grown and grown amongst people who haven't looked at the figures and think the Tories "won England" and that this is an easy way to steal power even though they lost the general election.

If you had an English parliament on a proportional representation basis, as you do on Scotland and Wales, the system of tactical voting would unravel. No longer would Lib Dems be able to claim "only we can win here". The Lib Dem vote would collapse, and the Labour vote would rise. More importantly the Tories would never get an overall majority - they'd be forced into coalition mode and to do that, they'd have to move to the centre and abandon their tax policies and some of their other daft stuff.

The Prime Minister, being responsible for the whole of the country and for foreign policy could still come from any region, as would the Chancellor, being responsible for the whole economy.

The Tories are far too focused on the short-term issue of Gordon Brown's leadership. In truth, the top of Labour is dominated by Scots because of the legacy of the 1980's when most Labour MP's entered parliament as representatives of Scottish constituencies. English Labour MP's surged into the house in 1997, and they are 1-2 generations younger than the leadership. The next generation of Labour leaders will come from this group - David Milliband, Ed Balls, John Denham, Hilary Benn, Englishmen all.

A Gordon Brown government could legislate for an English Parliament during his premiership, at the end of which the English Labour successors to Brown would be ready to take over.

The Tories are so distracted by Gordon Brown becoming leader (a short-term issue), that they don't realise they are making a long-term strategic mistake. They are in effect conceding that they will never gain an overall majority in Britain and by bringing up the English issue, they are conceding defeat to us for all time. There is a natural centre-left majority in England, and Labour are already winners in England. Labour has nothing to lose and everything to gain - the Tories could be forced into opposition, with no prospect of a coalition, for most of this century in an English parliament, especially if they persist in continuing with mad ideas such as anti-europeanism and other nasty party stuff.

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