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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Will the boundary changes rise from the ashes?

Today's Guardian contains a compelling account of much frantic behind-the-scenes activity to bring the nationalist parties within the UK Conservative Party's umbrella so as to get electorally important boundary changes through the House of Commons.

The paper says that David Cameron is still determined to force through the boundary changes next year so as to reduce both the number of seats in parliament and in particular the number of Labour MPs, (by about 30), in the face of opposition from Nick Clegg. They say that the Prime Minister appears to be promising more devolved powers to Northern Ireland and Wales but that the most significant development is the alliance he is forging with Alex Salmond in Scotland.

They add that driving what appears to be an emerging concordat between David Cameron and the SNP leader, Alex Salmond, is a belief that both sides stand to gain quite substantially from agreement over boundary changes in return for a "devolution max" that stops just short of full independence for Scotland. And that according to former Conservative MEP John Stevens, Cameron could announce shortly after the European elections in 2014 that the Scottish referendum would be a choice between "devo max" and full independence.

The Guardian quotes Conservative MEP John Stevens, as saying  that the devo max Cameron has in mind involves Scotland "no longer returning MPs to Westminster". Joint jurisdiction over defence and foreign affairs could be decided by ministers from both parliaments or representative Scottish MSPs coming to Westminster only when key defence or foreign affairs votes need to take place:

The government's commitment to set up a West Lothian commission gives credence to the discussions that Stevens says are going on behind the scenes. In January, the then leader of the House, Sir George Young, said the commission would look at a range of options such as only English and Welsh MPs voting on issues that affect only England and Wales. Young said: "In my view, that would be an appropriate rebalancing of the constitution to take account of the fact that in Scotland, they have their own parliament in which issues are resolved on which English MPs cannot vote. It seems somewhat perverse that Scottish MPs can vote on those very same issues when they apply only to England."

That "perversity" is what is driving some in the Tory party, who are described by some vexed colleagues as "south English separatists", to push for the creation of a standalone English parliament. Some of these so-called Tory separatists were behind demands for the West Lothian commission. They have little interest in Scotland remaining as part of the union and are often from the Eurosceptic wing of the party.

For those who find it difficult to imagine that David Cameron or Alex Salmond have much in common, still less could collude, recent memories of the once staunch enemies, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, as the re-christened "Chuckle brothers", is enough in itself to persuade many that some deeply serious brokering is not only possible, but is under way.

The SNP of course deny everything. This may be pure speculation. We will have to see what emerges next year.
Peter, this silly Guardian article is far below your usual standards. It's the speculation of a lone source, a Conservative MEP. It fantasizes that "the Tories will probably be able to buy off some Liberal Democrat MPs threatened with extinction with a place in the Lords or on a quango."
"...the nationalist parties.."

Would that include the British nationalist parties, viz, the LiBDems, Labour, Tory, UKIP & etc?

You're all Tories when it comes to British nationalism, but some are more Tory than others, Peter, despite Nick Clegg's pronunciations to the contrary. Methinks he, and you, protest too much!

The Guardian's article lacks credibility, but, some hard thinking needs to be done by the Brit Nats before 2014, before the Scots realise that they have a stark choice, Tory/London rule, or Scots/Edinburgh rule.
"In Wales, the carrot for Plaid Cymru is more assembly members in return for fewer, mostly Labour, MPs in Westminster."

Plaid would actually back this but they'd want more powers, not just more AMs. Plaid has said it would have to be a "major" transfer of powers. Above and beyond Silk. We would basically have to become a confederal state.

It's not going to happen because Labour aren't ready to have that internal battle yet, and the UK Government can't force changes on Wales without Labour's consent, although things would get very interesting if they tried.

There are too many parties that need to be pleased and catered for for this deal to work.
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