Wednesday, May 04, 2005

An English parliament? Not anytime soon...

Quick note: the Republicans want to disqualify votes cast by felons in the Washington governor's race using the proportion of all votes cast in the constituency--at least according to statistical evidence they are presenting. Of course, figuring out exactly how many votes were cast by felons opens up its own can of worms... but given that the margin of this election was statistically insignificant, it doesn't seem particularly wise to rely on statistical probabilities to try to alter the result.

Another interesting question--why can't felons vote? I'll save that argument for later.

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Following the British devolution in the late 1990s (the establishment of the Welsh Assembly and, particularly, the Holyrood parliament), a lot of authority has been delegated to this regional bodies, including some fiscal policy in the Scottish case. England, on the other hand, has had proposals for regional assemblies rejected, but has no all-English body, and no referendum on estabilshing such a body. Therefore the decent question stands: why is there no English Parliament to deal with devolved affairs in England alone? Why do Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Westminster MPs vote on matters concerning England?

The simple answer to this question is the nature of the United Kingdom. The UK has, first off, always been an England-centered state. England forms the geographic heart of the country; the ruling dynasty, though originally Scottish, ruled from London; and the vast majority of Britain's population lives in England. Delegating Westminster's power to an elected body representing the whole of England would severely undermine the Union Parliament. Essentially, this would be a first step toward confederation (which is exactly what many advocates of an English Parliament hope for).

No federal or quasi-federal state has such a large "primary" unit as England without at least one other to counterbalance it, for this very reason. This is why regional assemblies in England would not pose a threat to Westminster and to British unity, but an English parliament would clearly do so. A confederal structure to the United Kingdom, on the other hand, would clearly entail a change in attitude on the part of elites, who at this point would not accept such an arrangement; it is not advocated or supported by any of the three main parties.

For that reason, this discussion is mostly academic, at least for the present time; but it might be worthwhile for Britons to ponder exactly what kind of UK they want, especially if all its parts are to be integrated into an ever closer Europe anyway.

1 comment:

Sean Kellogg said...

I've got to ask.... why the interest in English parliamentary systems? Is the question of whether to divide Washington State, and the various political realities surrounding that decision, not interesting enough for you?