03 July 2007

The Big Clunking Fist

El Gordo (get out your Spanish dictionaries folks, but bear in mind that on this one, la olla está diciendo que el hervidor es negro) has set out his plans for reform. These include:

To hand over to Parliament the power to dissolve itself, rather than have an Election called on the PM's whim. The thing is, as long as the Government holds a majority, the PM still controls this. There was no commitment to fixed-term Parliaments, and no commitment to voting reform, but there was a promise to look at the effects of voting reform introduced since 1997. This most likely means the European Election system. Perhaps Holyrood and the Welsh Assembly will be discussed as well, but I don't think it's all that likely. But perhaps Arbuthnott will get his wish, and STV will be implemented for the Europ elections? Yes, and maybe I'll find a winning lottery ticket on the pavement tomorrow.

To limit the Executive's freedom to declare war. Did we actually declare war on Iraq, or did we just go in?

A statement on Lords Reform. Oh! A statement! Wow! Just what we need! Another bloody statement!

A debate on a Constitution. But not necessarily a Constitution. Marvellous.

Regional Committees to scrutinise the Regional Ministers. These are the same Regions that are drawn up artificially by Whitehall (which kind of defeats the purpose of regionalism, really), and this is in lieu of the Regional Assemblies that died the death when people in North East England laughed the proposal out of the room.

No resolution to the West Lothian Question.

A discussion of the voting age being lowered to 16, but no commitment.

A 'concordat' with Local Government. Wow!

And a commitment to preserve the Union, but no commitment to an open debate and vote on the matter.

The problem is that most of this deals with the mechanics of Government, which never really captures the imagination. But the issue I have with every constitutional change since 1997 is that it's either been piecemeal (i.e. the House of Lords), or stapled on to the existing situation without any real consideration of its implications in the wider sense (i.e. Devolution).

Why not start from scratch? Why not go back to first principles, and discuss the Union? Why not go through every constitutional principle and look again at it? Why not have one radical, cathartic look at the Constitutional affairs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? Why carry on tinkering around the edges?


BellgroveBelle said...

Why not make a commitment? Because that would be bold, exciting decision making. Labour have lost that pizazz.

Will said...

Well, the question was rhetorical, but I can't argue with the answer. :D

james higham said...

The "power to dissolve itself" is something I hve been raging about today in a different context.

Anonymous said...

Concordat implies concord, reached by negotiation. It's likely that the "concordat" with be imposet.

Ted Harvey said...

I'm willing to appreciate that Gordon Brown has opened up some areas of potentially significant reform - areas that were simply and crudely 'off-limits' so far as the major Westminster parties were concerned.

However, the more one looks at his proposals, the more they are like Labour policies on community regeneration - lots of 'consultation' and consultantancy activities and the likes of study or working groups... but above all, no real transfer or surrender of meaningful power with which to excercise real decision making.

I remain bewildered by his failure to attend to the glaring issue of disadvantage (perceived or otherwise) to purely 'all-England' legislation in Westminster. Going on using Scots MPs as voting fodder on English issues does neither side any good; and anyway, it ducks the basic issues about the Union that you raise.

I can understand why as an old-fashioned UK PM, Brown just will not start up any debate on the Union as such - but I still do not see how in the UK context, he can think that he can get away with just leaving the whole situation unattended to in any way.