The leaders of the largest Parliamentary parties invested significant credibility in their “vow” to the Scottish people: there would be more powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote. Now they have to deliver, and one of them has a problem: Young Dave has many unhappy back-benchers to placate, and he needs to counter the impression that Labour pulled him out of a hole.
So it should surprise no-one to see the right-leaning part of the Fourth Estate banging on about “home rule for England”, that MPs representing Scottish constituencies can be easily prevented from voting on purely English issues, and that all of this is “fair”. This looks to have the paw prints of somebody’s crudely populist Aussie spinner all over it, and it’s going to unravel in short order.
More powers for Scotland will indeed create an imbalance with the rest of the UK. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, the idea that devolution for England can be tied to the same timescale as the already tight one for Scotland is absurd: it falls apart on the very first point, which is to ask to whom those powers will be devolved. There isn’t a mechanism for doing that.
Now look at the reality: for Scotland, and indeed, with very little change, for Wales, there is already a body in place to take on those powers, and a process in place for their transfer. For England, not only is there no process in place, there is no body, and no agreement as to what form the body or bodies should take, or what parts of the country they should represent.
What are we talking here? Regions? Cities? City regions (like Merseyside and Greater Manchester – in other words, the areas covered by the metropolitan counties whose authorities were abolished by Mrs T, partly because they all returned Labour majority administrations)? Is Cameron suggesting this conversation can be had, a result agreed, and bodies set up, in the next few weeks?
Is he buggery. To devolve powers in England to the same timetable as that which will be required to fulfil the promise – yes, promise – made to the Scots is not even remotely feasible, except in the minds of press owners, editors and pundits who are either sympathetic to the Tories, who just go with the herd, or who are generally so credulous as not to subject this drivel to a basic reality check.
What we have here is opportunist spin, nothing more. Someone behind the scenes is deploying his dog-whistle, and that someone is not Cameron, and nor is it any other member of his Cabinet. This particular stick of rock appears to have Lynton Crosby running through it. It is cheap, it is crass, it is pointless, and to call it unhelpful in the extreme would be to exercise just a little too much restraint.
“English Home Rule”? That’s what the papers print when the Tories don’t have any.