Jack Straw on another planet

! This post hasn't been updated in over a year. A lot can change in a year including my opinion and the amount of naughty words I use. There's a good chance that there's something in what's written below that someone will find objectionable. That's fine, if I tried to please everybody all of the time then I'd be a Lib Dem (remember them?) and I'm certainly not one of those. The point is, I'm not the kind of person to try and alter history in case I said something in the past that someone can use against me in the future but just remember that the person I was then isn't the person I am now nor the person I'll be in a year's time.

BBC Question Time had a question and answer session with the Demon Headmaster and somehow a question mentioning England managed to slip through the net.  His answer is below, my comments are in italics:

Question from Stephen, London: As Leader of the Commons, how can having two Scottish MPs as the front runners for PM be democratic? Powers for most agencies including health, education etc have been devolved in Scotland, yet Mr Reid or Mr Brown would set the agenda for solely English matters when they represent Scottish constituencies.

Jack Straw: English MPs control all the money which Scotland receives – is that ‘fair’?
The chancellor controls what our taxes are spent on, the chancellor decides the subsidy England pays to the rest of the UK, the chancellor is the MP for Kirkaldy & Cowdenbeath in Scotland.
England constitutes 85% of the UK’s population and 87% of its wealth.
So he admits we are subsidising the rest of the UK.
It was English MPs who agreed to devolve some powers to Scotland in a Westminster Act of Parliament; but year by year controls over public spending levels for all of the UK continue to be exercised by Westminster. And power devolved is power retained, not ceded.
It was BRITISH MP’s that devolved MOST powers to Scotland.  Westminster is the seat of the BRITISH parliament.

While the current Tory cry of “English votes on English laws” has a simplistic appeal, it is in reality unworkable, undesirable and dangerous. It would create a two-tier system of “ins and outs” that would be so complex and confusing as to be unworkable.
Correct but something needs to be done about the current situation and the Tories are the only mainstream party offering a solution, even if it is crap.

How is it possible, for example, to distinguish between English “bits” of legislation and UK “bits”? It isn’t. The territorial extent of the clause in a bill – or part of a clause – cannot be conclusive, as so many “England only” decisions have plain implications for Scotland as well.
How is it possible to decide that a bit of legislation is Scottish?  Because they have a parliament?  You’ve answered your own question there Jack.

Hence, Vernon Bogdanor, perhaps the foremost constitutional expert in Britain, has claimed that the Tory proposals would “destroy the principle of collective responsibility, according to which government must stand or fall as a whole, commanding a majority on all the issues that come before Parliament, not just a selection. It is difficult to see how Britain could be effectively governed in such circumstances.”
Never heard of him.  The British government doesn’t vote on laws that are devolved to Scotland and Wales but the British government hasn’t fallen yet.

Moreover, it is difficult to see how the UK could remain united. The outcome of a break-up of the union would be calamitous.
For Labour and anti-English British MP’s it would.  For the subisidy junkies it would.  For England it would be the best thing that could happen.

The United Kingdom – Great Britain and Northern Ireland – is a union which works to the equal benefit of all four nations of the union. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
The union benefits our neighbours, it doesn’t benefit England.  It costs England money, it costs English lives and it keeps England ruled by MP’s elected in another country that aren’t accountable to any English voter.

Historically, England called the shots to achieve a union because the union was seen as a way, among others things, of amplifying England’s power worldwide.
The Scots were desperate to form a union after bankrupting themselves trying to colonise Panama.  They couldn’t unite with England quick enough and we’re still paying for it now.

And the reverse would certainly be true. A broken-up United Kingdom would not be in the interests of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, but especially not England.
It would be terrible for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland because they need us to subsidise them.  It would be fantastic for England.

Our voting power in the European Union would diminish. We’d slip down in the world league GDP tables. Our case for staying in the G8 would diminish and there could easily be an assault on our permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
Why would England stay in the European Federation if the union broke up?  The English taxpayer is subsidising the Scots, the Welsh, the Northern Irish and virtually the whole of the European Federation now, why would we want to carry on subsidising them afterwards?  Without the burden of our insolvent neighbours our economy would thrive.  The rest of the world equates Britain with England.  If you asked a hundred random people from around the world if they knew where Scotland was, most of them would say it was in England.


  1. Dark Heretic (15 comments) says:


    Nice article and great dissection of Jack Straws lame argument. Vernon Bogdanor can be found over at Wikipedia and it seems that David Cameron was one of his best students. Good or bad?


    Dark Heretic

  2. Snafu (5 comments) says:

    Wonko, excellent post.

    Erm, did Jack Straw answer the question though!?! Legistlation already passes through Parliament that only affects England and Wales as Scotland has it’s own legal process.

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