Conservative Diary

« Tory Reform Group backs a formal Lib-Con coalition as being "in the national interest" | Main | William Hague says that the talks with the Lib Dems will reconvene in the next 24 hours as David Cameron makes himself available to Tory MPs this evening »

Redwood brandishes the flag of England

The Conservatives held their one seat in Scotland, and gained none.  The SNP will swoop on the Scottish results, claiming that a Cameron Government would have no mandate to govern there, with or without the Liberal Democrats.

But look at the other side of River Tweed.  The Tories have a clear majority of seats in England. The Conservative Home calculation gives them 298 seats out of 529.  So who will make the mirroring argument that only a Cameron Government has a mandate to govern England?

This very morning, a champion has emerged, grasping in his hands the cross of St George.  On his blog, John Redwood declares here that it's "time to speak for England".  This is a suggestive political development - especially given the current post-election impasse.

The tensions within the Union are so obvious as not to require restating. Labour's Scottish devolution settlement is manifestly unfair to England. A ConservativeHome survey of the new generation of Tory MPs found that they are "barely Unionist".

During the last Parliament, there were rumblings in the Parliamentary Party about Labour measures being imposed in England by Scottish votes - such as top-up fees - while English taxpayers subsidise Scotland through the Barnett formula.

The Conservative manifesto didn't explicitly pledge "English votes for English laws".  Instead, it guardedly pledged that a Tory Government will introduce "new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries".

This cautious tone is in keeping with Cameron's approach to Scotland. He's treated the Calman Commission with respect and the Barnett formula with caution.  Evidently, he has no wish to be written into the history books as "the Prime Minister who lost Scotland".

What the English Nationalists on the Conservative benches have lacked to date is a leader.  Redwood has been plugging away on the matter for some time.  But in a hung Parliament, his view and that of those of like mind acquires a new importance.

As Tim indicated yesterday here, Cameron, given the Commons numbers, will have to mind his internal coalition.  Redwood is reminding the leadership of an issue about which he feels strongly, of the new power of the right of the Party, and of his own credentials for government.

He won't be the last newly-elected Tory to "speak for England".  He may not even turn out to be the most significant.  But whether one agrees with his view or not, there's no doubt that he's touched on an issue of first-rank importance.

Before the election, I explained why it was one of three main institutional problems confronting a Conservative Government, and why the English-votes-for-English laws proposal is only a short-term solution to a longer-term problem here.

Paul Goodman


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.