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The West Lothian question has left Ed Milliband in a deep hole

September 22, 2014 9:09 AM
By Richard Church in LIb Dem Voice

Cllr Richard ChurchEd Miliband has to concede that home rule for Scotland must mean that Scottish MP's should no longer vote on English only matters. Not to do so would be unreasonable, unfair, and also deeply unpopular in England. It would give the Tories the biggest stick they could wish for to beat Labour with up and down England in May next year.

If Ed does agree to withdraw Scottish (and Welsh) Mp's from English legislation though, any future non Conservative UK government might be paralysed by a Conservative majority of English MP's elected on a minority of the English vote. Labour would be unable to deliver on the NHS, on Education, on welfare and on a whole host of key priorities. Worse, without an English executive there would be gridlock. Labour, even with Lib Dem support, wouldn't even be able to deliver devolution to English Regions with an English Tory veto.

There is only one way for Labour to get out of this hole. They should only concede an answer to the West Lothian Question if the House of Commons is elected by proportional representation. AV has been rejected and it won't do, we have to ensure that a future UK Parliament is not wrecked by English only Tory MP's.

Most of us thought that the AV referendum in 2011 killed electoral reform for a generation. We were wrong, only the Alternative Vote was killed. We cannot continue with differing degrees of proportional representation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland while England remains in the grip of a system that will deliver paralysis in its government if it is not reformed before the West Lothian conundrum is put to bed. It's up to Labour, but there is a new window of opportunity for electoral reform. If only they have the sense to take it.

* Richard Church is a former Councillor in Northampton and Chair of East Midlands Liberal Democrats, now living in Montgomeryshire