Fear and West Lothian

It occurs to me that a major reason why a Lab/Lib coalition was a complete non-starter is simply that it would not have commanded a majority of seats in England, and the regional parties it would have required for support don’t vote on England matters.

Hence, it couldn’t have passed any domestic English legislation without Tory support. Hence, it would immediately have collapsed, and hence, it could never have happened in the first place.

Take-out: the West Lothian question is self-resolving, and a de facto English parliament already exists: there is no conceivable scenario under which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK.

Sure, formally (or, more plausibly given the UK constitution, ‘creating a tradition of’) taking away Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs’ right to vote on laws that are solely domestic English in nature wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do. But it wouldn’t actually have any benefits for anybody, either…

14 thoughts on “Fear and West Lothian”

  1. This is half right and half wrong. Half right, in that the smaller regional parties don't vote on England-only legislation, so a Lib-Lab-Lots coalition could not have passed any; half wrong, in that the Scottish and Welsh larger parties do (actually, more recently I think the Scottish Tories have made a point of not voting on English legislation, but that's symbolic, and a function of having only one MP who couldn't make any final difference anyway). So there is certainly a scenario in which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK – the most plausible is one in which Labour had a small overall majority including a large number of Scottish and Welsh seats. (That's to say, there's a scenario under different, plausible general election results; there's no such scenario under the current one.)

  2. So there is certainly a scenario in which a party or alliance without a majority of English seats could govern the UK – the most plausible is one in which Labour had a small overall majority including a large number of Scottish and Welsh seats.

    I don't think an alliance would hold under those circumstances, basically because I think Labour's the only party that would even dare to consider giving it a go.

    You're right about the Labour small-overall-majority scenario – however, the fact that it's never happened before makes me sceptical that it'll happen ever. In general, the kind of swings that win you the country win you England, and vice versa.

    But we need to be clear – when we say "West Lothian qn", we literally mean "what happens if there's a GE where Labour has a small overall majority with a minority of English seats, and 3-line whips its Scots and Welsh MPs to vote for the party agenda in England". Under no other circumstances is it an issue…

  3. But we need to be clear – when we say “West Lothian qn”, we literally mean “what happens if there’s a GE where Labour has a small overall majority with a minority of English seats, and 3-line whips its Scots and Welsh MPs to vote for the party agenda in England”. Under no other circumstances is it an issue…

    The West Lothian Question is over 32 years old; I think James Callaghan was PM of a minority Labour government at the time. Tam Dalyell asked, "For how long will English constituencies and English Honourable members tolerate… at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important, and probably often decisive, effect on British politics while they themselves have no say in the same matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?"

  4. This was the election result for the little regarded backwater of England
    Conservative: 297
    Labour: 191
    LibDem: 43
    Green/dogs on string layabouts : 1 …

    It doesn’t seem likely that New Labour will be able to command a majority without seats from the devolved countries, again to me.The death of Labour in the tax exporting regions is more profound even thatn the end of Conservatives in Scotland . They hold only 12 seats in the South outside London a fact which David Milliband ( but not red Ed )thought worth mentioning .They have four seats in the South East, historic oddity status , and and every word they say takes them out into the lunatic fringe ( This is because they cannot admit to having been fiscal piss artists for the latter half of their squander time and starting form there nothing but hirsuite bollocks can follow ).
    There is still arguably a need for an English Parliament to make English votes worth as much as Scottish and Welsh ones because the ‘de facto Parliament’ it cannot initiate legislation , like European ‘Parliament ,soi disant . In other words it is a de facto nothing…um I think.

    This is the promise in the Conservative manifesto

    • “Address the West Lothian Question by ensuring that legislation on devolved issues that only affects England, or England and Wales, can only be passed with the consent of MPs from England, and where applicable Wales.

    This survived the Clegging but I read it as a Unionist sop to the growing calls for devolved English legislation.It will almost certainly go ahead , I gather

  5. Mmmm, an English Parliament. Hardly ideal – unless you can persuade the pesky sub-humans in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, the Midlands, the South West and a big Swathe of London that they actually belong with Scotland and Wales.

  6. the South outside London

    Gerrymandering much? London accounts for 36% of the population of the South (defined as the Southeast + Southwest + London – you could reduce that to 28% if you include East). London's not some quirky little anomaly you know – it's a city of 7.5 million people.

  7. 1-D Squared -I was quoting David Milliband –
    2–It’s not that odd, is it? Labour had no seats in the South-East between 1979 and 1992.-

    Interesting but when I think of just how unelectable Labour were then( SDP? New Labour …why ?) That is less comforting than you suggest. It is rather interesting that the failure of David Cameron to win (so called ), was achieved with a million more votes than Labour based their last clown show administration on.( 10.5 to 9.5)

    Who thinks Dave will lcim Balls then ?

  8. The regional parties you speak of,SNP and Plaid Cymru.Confirmed they would break their self imposed ban on voting on English affairs to keep labour in power for a price. The price was no cuts for Wales and Scotland. Even the suppos-ed Unionists in Northern Ireland joined the queue, they just wanted a blank check.This de-facto English Parliament you speak of can only exist as long as the coalition exists. A lib/lab coalition would have been .excellent from a Campaign English Parliament point of view.A bloc of Irish Scots and Welsh politicians demanding cash while England gets the cuts would have made people sit up and take notice

  9. ps."taking away Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs’ right to vote on laws that are solely domestic English in nature wouldn’t be a terrible thing to do. But it wouldn’t actually have any benefits for anybody, either…"

    except for expensive tuition fees for English students and foundation hospitals in England only and many other laws passed on the strength of scots and welsh votes, no.

  10. The death of Labour in the tax-exporting regions is more profound even thatn the end of Conservatives in Scotland .

    Scotland was, of course, a tax-exporting region throughout the 1980s. That would be, basically, the oil flowing south. £15 billion (inflation adjusted) in 1985 alone went south, even as Scottish unemployment headed up, and helped to build the low-tax, light-touch regulatory paradise of the City of London instead of staying at home and easing the shock to the former Central Lowlands industrial base as shipping and coal and steel were carefully gutted.

    Scotland's even paying a share of the cost of the 2012 London Olympics. But then, it's only right that East London gets lots of money to revitalise it; it's not as though there are any run-down areas in Glasgow that might need the money.

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