Monday, 19 January 2009

Devolution and the West Lothian Question - Part 5: 85% is enough

Related articles:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I have received an answer to my letter of 13th December referred to in Part 4, which is here. I am glad to say that the correspondence is now drawing to a close, but the essential proposition underlying present Ministers' thinking is now clear: 85% representation on matters devolved elsewhere is enough.

As I say in my response, I think the government is playing a dangerous game here for their own party advantage. As I mention in Part 3, "what I believe would threaten the future of the UK, and at the very minimum cause unacceptable ill-feeling within its constituent parts, is if a UK government were regularly and persistently to enact (by means of whipping Scottish members) controversial legislation for England (and Wales prior to a successful Assembly Act referendum) on matters devolved in Scotland which is opposed by the majority of members elected for England (and Wales prior to the referendum). The threat would be even worse if there were a SNP government in Scotland pouring petrol on the flames."

Present Ministers seem content to play this game were this electoral outcome to arise, notwithstanding that it would be almost certain to fail in the end.

Why have we reached the situation that Ministers seem unable to recognise that, even after causing such ill-feeling, the party advantage they look for would in the end elude them? Jack Straw seems to be a man on the back burner. The present situation seems to be a combination of a Minister of Justice who has lost interest in the job, and a clever Prime Minister who suffers from a one-track mind. (As an aside, on the few occasions I see Jack Straw on the television, he looks ever more doleful and ever more like my dog - somewhat alarming as it is owners who are supposed to grow to resemble their dog).

I am a sports fan, and I enjoy listening to BBC Radio 5's Saturday morning programme "Fighting Talk". In this programme, four sports personalities gain points by commenting in an entertaining way on topical sporting issues put to them. The two who at the end of the programme have the most points have a "play-off" to decide the winner called "Defending the indefensible". They have to try to argue an absurd sporting proposition convincingly.

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