South-East Cambs candidates’ views on the Power 2010 pledge

I’ve had a couple of replies from my local candidates on the Power 2010 Pledge, which I wrote to them about on St. George’s Day. Their responses are basically in line with their parties’ manifestoes, which I suppose is no surprise.

First, the incumbent Tory MP, Jim Paice:

“My Party is a Unionist party – and so we will not put the Union at risk. However, having said that we are supportive of devolution and have committed in our Manifesto to rebalance the unfairness in the voting system for devolved issues in Parliament (the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’). We have pledged to introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England (or to England and Wales as is also often the case) cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries. The Labour Government has refused to address this situation, and it is not a Manifesto commitment of the Lib Dems.

“You can read the Manifesto here and the relevant section is pages 83-84.”
Firstly, Jim Paice is right about Labour and the Lib Dems on this issue. Indeed, the Lib Dems have indicated elsewhere that they are prepared to tolerate the continuation of the WLQ until more fundamental reforms of the constitution, parliament and voting system are enacted – which is highly convenient if they actually need the votes of Scottish Labour MPs to pass English legislation in the event of a Lab-Lib coalition after the election.
This emphasis on resolving the West Lothian and English Questions within a broader context of constitutional reform – again, consistent with the manifesto – is what emerges from the reply I received from the Lib Dem contender in South East Cambs, Jonathan Chatfield:
“Thank you for writing to me about the English question and wider Power 2010campaign.

“I am delighted to support the campaign for a reforming Parliament and have signed the pledge. Liberal Democrats have been calling for wholesale reform of our Parliamentary system for a long time and I am pleased to say that it is already our policy to:

“Introduce a proportional voting system

“The Liberal Democrats will change politics forever and end safe seats by introducing a fair, more proportional voting system for MPs, and for the House of Lords. By giving voters the choice between people as well as parties, it means they can stick with a party but punish a bad MP by voting for someone else.

“Scrap ID cards and roll back the database state

“Liberal Democrats would scrap ID cards. Getting rid of this illiberal, expensive and ineffective scheme, will free up money for thousands more police on our streets. We will also get innocent people off the DNA Database and scrap the intrusive ContactPoint database which will hold the details of every child in England.

“Replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber

“Liberal Democrats will replace it with a fully elected second chamber with considerably fewer members than the current House.

“Draw up a written constitution

“Liberal Democrats believe that people should have the power to determine this constitution in a convention made up of members of the public and parliamentarians of all parties, and subject to final approval in a referendum.

“The only part of the pledge with which I do not agree is the call to ‘allow only English MPs to vote on English laws’. We need a wider look at the constitution and our electoral system, rather than creating two types of MPs at Westminster. I believe that the better approach to solve the anomalies in the current constitutional settlement is to address the status of England within a Federal Britain, through the Constitutional Convention set up to draft a written constitution for the UK as a whole.

“Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.”

No surprises there, then, and no surprise that the Power 2010 movement itself enjoys the backing and participation of senior Liberal Democrats: the Power 2010 Pledge (apart from English votes on English laws) could almost be taken out of the Lib Dem manifesto!

Of course, from my perspective, it’s highly problematic that the only part of it that Jonathan Chatfield doesn’t agree with is the proposed remedy to the West Lothian Question; and it’s ironic that this is the only bit that the Tory candidate does agree with.

Sort of. Because the Tories’ ‘answer’ to the West Lothian Question is not a real answer. It’s true that they would allow only English MPs to determine effectively the final shape of any England-only legislation, by allowing only English MPs to participate at the report and committee stages of bills. But non-English MPs will still be allowed to vote on those bills at their second and third reading. So if there’s an overall Conservative majority among English MPs (the most likely outcome of the election) but not a Conservative majority across the UK as a whole, there could be stalemate if the other parties and non-English MPs voted down English bills at their second and third reading.

This is another reason why the Conservatives are banging on about being given an overall majority across the UK as a whole (which actually means a substantial majority in England only), because otherwise they would not be able to govern in England if they formed a minority government and still tried to adopt their proposed mitigation of the WLQ. Expect that to be dropped then in such an eventuality.

The Conservatives’ proposal would, however, nicely salve their conscience if there were a hung parliament but they had enough MPs to make a deal with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the UUP to give them an overall majority. They could then defend themselves against accusations that they were, in effect, using the votes of non-English and, in some instances, anti-Union MPs to pass legislation in the Union parliament that affected only England! They would argue that their ‘English pauses for English clauses’ arrangement effectively gave English MPs – i.e. the English Tories – the final say on English bills.

Equally, the Tories’ tweak to the procedures for English bills could be introduced in the event of a Con-Lib coalition, especially as the Lib Dems seem to have no difficulties of conscience in practising West Lothian voting. So in effect, the Tory and Lib Dem positions ironically dovetail on the West Lothian Question: they’re prepared to continue with that anomaly so long as it suits their political interests and they can appear to legitimise the governance of England by the Union parliament for the Union – as opposed to government of the English people by the English people for the English people.

So should I conclude that I should give my vote to neither the Tories or the Lib Dems? Well, my view, as frequently expressed in this blog during the election campaign, is that, without a hung parliament, there’s no chance of driving through the radical constitutional reforms that could lead to constitutional recognition of England as a nation and to an English parliament. The Tories clearly are not interested in addressing the broader English Question, and their proposal doesn’t even amount to English votes on English laws – partly because of the unworkability of that proposal, at least under present parliamentary arrangements.

The Lib Dems, on the other hand, do recognise the need to address the English Question, even if they are at best equivocal about what the status of England, if any, would be in their federal blueprint for the UK; and even if electoral reform begs the English Question even more critically than carrying on with West Lothian voting in a non-proportionally elected House of Commons, as I argued in my previous post.

So it’s still the Lib Dems for me, as they’re the only party in South East Cambs that could unseat the Tory MP and help towards a hung parliament. But if they do have a share of power after the election, they’d be very much on probation, as far as I’m concerned. Their credentials with regard to real democratic reform will be dependent on the extent to which, if at all, they allow the English people to determine the way they are governed. And tolerating the WLQ isn’t a good start.


Farcical Tory whinges about electoral unfairness

The Tories have been moaning about how they are electorally disadvantaged by the present constituency boundaries in England. In a post on the Conservative Home blog today, they quote the Sun as saying: “On a uniform swing across the country, the Tories would get 278 MPs if they scoop 37 per cent of the vote. But Labour would get 280 on just 32 per cent of the vote”.

As I point out in a comment to that post, 278 MPs still equate to 43% of seats in the House of Commons; so the Tories have got nothing to complain about other than the fact they resent Labour benefiting from the unfairness of the voting system even more than they do.

These anomalies arise only as a result of the unfair system used for UK-parliamentary elections. Admittedly, they are exacerbated by Labour’s gerrymandering of constituency boundaries, such that urban seats, where Labour’s support is concentrated, have smaller populations than rural ones, where the Tories are stronger. But it’s the ‘winner takes all’ principle of the First Past the Post system that translates this advantage into seats in Parliament. The Tories, who have consistently opposed electoral reform, have only themselves to blame. But, rest assured, if they get back in power, they’ll rig the system back the other way, in their favour.

In a properly proportional voting system, these anti-democratic absurdities would be a thing of the past. Using multi-member STV, for instance, the number of seats up for election in each constituency would be in proportion to the population size of the constituency; and the result would be in proportion to the way people actually voted. But you won’t find the Tories supporting that, because then they’d have even fewer than 43% of seats from 37% of the vote.

But – and this is the stupidity of their support for FPTP – they would be the largest party and would have the automatic right to try and form a government; whereas under FPTP, anomalies such as Labour being the largest party in parliament based on a smaller share of the vote can always arise: they’re structurally built in to the system, and arguably this would still work in Labour’s favour even if constituency sizes were all the same, as Labour tends to win their seats on smaller shares of the vote than the Tories.

Idiot, self-serving Tories.

And the other dimension they’re not factoring in to these calculations is that Labour’s overall UK plurality (i.e. largest share but not majority of seats) is entirely dependent on their electoral strength in Scotland and Wales. In an English parliament – based on the shares of the vote the Tories are using for their calculations – the Conservatives would be in the majority, or at least the party of government. And indeed, if they stood up for proper English votes on English laws, rather than their botched mitigation of the WLQ, which allows non-English MPs to continue voting on English legislation, they could prevent Labour from being the party of government for England.

Idiot Tories!

Keep the English Question on the election agenda: vote EVoEL

This is a bare-faced appeal to my readers to visit the Power 2010 website and vote for the option of English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL).

I’ve discussed Power 2010 before, but just to remind you, it’s a movement for political and constitutional reform that is conducting an online poll to determine the five most popular reform measures that candidates at the general election will be asked to support. An English parliament isn’t on the list because it was eliminated in a public deliberation in December of last year, whose impartiality and validity left something to be desired. But EVoEL did make the cut, and it’s the only proposal that addresses the English Question to be included in the poll.

It’s really important to try and get EVoEL back into the top five, where it was placed up until Monday of this week, when it was overtaken by the idea of an elected second chamber of (the British) Parliament. That was thanks to an appeal to supporters of the Unlock Democracy organisation to vote for that single measure alone. There are only five days left to go, so now is the time to vote!

The idea of an elected second chamber has some merits, but it would certainly not deal with the discrimination faced by English voters under the present system. Indeed, it might make it worse by setting up an upper-house West Lothian Question: elected Lords or Senators from non-English seats voting on English legislation.

EVoEL is currently 94 votes behind an elected second chamber. At one point yesterday, the gap was 98 votes, and it then dropped to 72. So we can make a difference. EVoEL is absolutely no substitute for an English parliament; but voting for it in this poll should be considered a tactical vote. Getting it through would basically keep the English Question on the agenda, and candidates will be asked to commit to supporting fairer representation for English people in Parliament – just at the time when the Tories have now finally abandoned their previous commitment to EVoEL and have decided to adopt Ken Clarke’s ‘English Pauses for English Clauses’ measure: non-English MPs can still vote on English bills at their second and third readings, the only difference being that only English MPs can make amendments at the committee stage.

We need proper democratic accountability: England-only laws enacted by only English MPs; and no MPs whose countries are not affected by laws relating to England should vote on them. So vote EVoEL now!

English Votes on English Laws is undesirable but possible

I’ve just thought of a way to overcome one of the problems that is often brought forward as a reason why it would be hard or inadvisable to introduce English Votes on English Laws (EVoEL) in the Westminster parliament: the fact that clauses in many bills relate to different combinations of the UK’s constituent countries, e.g. England and Wales; England, Wales and Northern Ireland; or Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales). Therefore, it’s practically difficult to say that a particular bill relates to England only and to limit voting on that bill to MPs from English constituencies.

My solution to this problem with the West Lothian solution is to say that for country-specific clauses such as these, you simply count only the votes of the MPs from the countries affected. So you don’t have to break up the chamber of the House of Commons and form a separate English Grand Committee, or a separate England-only block at the committee stage of a bill (Ken Clarke’s proposal that appears to be the Conservatives’ current policy). Scottish MPs could still be present at and participate in debates on matters not affecting Scotland, to preserve at least the idea that the Westminster parliament is that of the whole UK and to allow Scottish MPs to input into spending decisions that will in fact indirectly affect their constituents via the Barnett Formula. But if any Scottish MP voted on clauses or whole bills not affecting Scotland, those votes would simply be regarded as inadmissible and not counted.

So this is more of a negative version of EVoEL: counting out the votes of MPs representing seats not affected by parliamentary bills, rather than counting in only the votes and participation of English MPs on English bills or clauses. The drafters of bills and the House of Commons business managers know which clauses relate to which countries. So bills can be walked through and voted on clause by clause, just as now; only without counting the votes of MPs representing seats not affected by those bills.

Not great; but do-able.

The Tories need to keep the West Lothian Question unanswered

If Iain Dale’s election predictions are right, the Tories may well be dependent on the votes of their Scottish and Welsh MPs (and their UUP allies) to have a working majority after the next election. Iain is predicting an overall Conservative majority of 12, including nine seats in Scotland and four in Wales.

As a consequence, the Tories will do nothing to fundamentally amend the West Lothian anomaly, because they’ll need their non-English MPs to vote through England-only legislation that doesn’t affect their constituents.

How would such a result affect their plan – if indeed this is still their plan – to allow only English MPs to revise bills at the committee stage? Presumably, if they didn’t have a majority of English MPs, then bills could be altered in ways unacceptable to the Conservative Party; and then the only recourse under Ken Clarke’s proposed system would be to vote out the bills at their third reading, making England potentially ungovernable. So if Dale’s prediction transpires, you can expect the Tories to quietly drop even this extremely modest nod in the direction of English votes on English bills.

No wonder the Tories are seeking to portray themselves as the party of ‘the [British] NHS’, including to voters in Scotland and Wales. They mustn’t be allowed to get away with this fraud!

The article ConservativeHome rejected: To be a party of the Union, the Conservatives must also be a party for England

On the day after the Conservatives published a draft manifesto for the English NHS that failed to mention ‘England’ a single time, I thought it would be fitting to publish an article of mine that was originally accepted for inclusion in the ‘Platform’ section of the ConservativeHome blog back in November of last year. However, they subsequently got cold feet and decided not to publish.

The rejection of the article, coupled with the Conservatives’ refusal to accurately present their English-NHS policies as limited to England, doesn’t make me optimistic that the election campaign will be marked by honesty over English matters. Here’s the article:

It has been said by some – and I would tend to agree – that the biggest threat to the continuation of the Union is likely to come from England, not Scotland. There is a groundswell of feeling and opinion throughout England that our present constitutional and political arrangements have left England in both a democratic and financial deficit; and it is arguable that the wave of disaffection with Parliament and our political system that broke in May and June of this year was primarily an expression of English alienation and disenchantment with the status quo. At the very least, the UK-wide eruption of disgust at MPs’ perceived corruption was more acute in England, which does not have a parliament of its own, thereby exacerbating the feeling that the political class has become unaccountable to the public.

There are now many people in England who secretly or not so secretly wish that the Scots will get their independence referendum and will vote to leave the UK. Indeed, if the English were offered a referendum on independence for England, it would not be surprising if the percentage in favour exceeded the 29% of Scots who reportedly back independence for Scotland at present. Arguably, in any case, all UK citizens should be allowed to participate in any definitive independence referendum for Scotland, as opposed to the SNP’s proposed consultative referendum asking for a mandate for the Scottish government to negotiate an independence settlement with the UK government. This is because Scotland cannot technically vote to ‘leave’ the Union. The effect of a vote in favour of Scottish independence would actually be to dissolve the Union: Great Britain would cease to exist, as this entity is the product of a union between two nations (Wales being subsumed within England at the time); and if one of those nations decides to go, that breaks up the union. In other words, Great Britain is the name of a marriage; and when a divorce arises, there is no more Great Britain – just separate entities known as England (and Wales) and Scotland.

So part of any deal for Scottish independence would have to be a new constitutional settlement for the residual nations of the UK to form, for instance, a new ‘United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’. And it would only be right and proper that the prospective citizens of the new state should be asked whether they wanted to be part of it. So perhaps you’d need two referendums, in fact: one for the Scots about their national future; and one for the rest of the UK.

This is, of course, a scenario that traditional unionist Conservatives would like to avoid at all costs. But you can’t deal with English disaffection with asymmetric devolution and with the lack of a representative parliament for England by denying English-national feeling and identity, as the Labour government has tried to do. New Labour has tried to manipulate English people’s traditional patriotic identification of England with Great Britain – the two often being interchangeable in English people’s hearts and minds – to engineer a ‘New Britain’ that denies the existence of a distinct English nation altogether: a Britain / UK that no longer comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but is viewed as Britain + the devolved nations – Gordon Brown’s ‘Britain of nations and regions [formerly known as England]’.

Whilst this new British-nation building has arguably mediated a profound Anglophobia at the heart of the liberal establishment, it has also been a reaction by the Westminster establishment as a whole to the traumatic shock to the 300-year-old Union that was delivered by an ill-thought-through devolution settlement. The fear was that a new English nationalism would build up in parallel to the growing national consciousness and self-confidence of the Scots and the Welsh; and that the English would start to demand their own parliament and national institutions that could rip open the Union from within. But instead of acknowledging that it was an inevitable consequence of devolution that the English would start to become more aware of themselves as a distinct nation, and would consequently start to demand English civic institutions like those of the other British nations, the approach has been virtually to deny that England even exists, which – politically and constitutionally speaking – it in fact doesn’t. In this way, the Union parliament can be presented as a perfectly adequate representative democratic body for England because there is no England, only the UK. As Tony Blair’s first Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine memorably put it, “The way to deal with the West Lothian Question is not to ask it”.

Given the Conservative Party’s profound attachment to the Union, it would be understandable if a Tory government were to continue along this path of denying any distinctly English dimension to national politics and constitutional affairs. Clearly, this is the case not only because of the perceived threat of a growing English nationalism but because the Conservatives are desperate, for electoral purposes, not to be perceived by Scots as an English party – which they mainly in fact are. But to replicate New Labour’s actions and attitudes in relation to England would not only be unjust but would also be alien to Conservative tradition and counter-productive to the aim of preserving the Union. Traditionally, that is, the Conservatives have been adept at balancing the competing English and British identities and patriotisms of the English people: channelling English national pride into a One Nation Britishness that yet did not deny Englishness. If, on the other hand, the response of a forthcoming Conservative government to the contrary challenges of English and Scottish nationalism is, like New Labour, to make it unacceptable to publicly articulate pride in Englishness, then this will in turn be unacceptable to the English public in the long run. The Union cannot be sustainable if its largest constituent part has to deny its own identity and democratic aspirations indefinitely while allowing its other parts to affirm their own – indeed, in order to allow the other nations to affirm their distinct identities, requiring England in a sense to become the Union by itself: the place of Britishness from which only the other nations are allowed to differentiate themselves; whereas if England becomes merely England, not Britain, then there is no more Union, just four distinct nations.

So what are the alternatives? Well, Ken Clarke’s answer to the West Lothian Question, which has been dubbed ‘English pauses for English clauses’, manages to avoid really asking the question, too. While it makes it possible for English MPs to amend England-only clauses of bills at the committee stage, Clarke’s recommendation still leaves the structural West Lothian anomaly in place: bills affecting England only or mainly can still be put forward by an executive comprising MPs from across the UK’s nations, and still need to be passed by a parliamentary majority made up of MPs from all four countries. In any case, such a procedural titivation is hardly likely to stem the growing tide of public dissatisfaction with the workings and representative character of Parliament in general, let alone the aspirations towards English self-government.

It seems to me, then, that if the Conservative Party genuinely seeks to preserve the Union as a true, undivided Union of equal nations, then it will have to seek a way to allow a distinct and healthy English-national politics and civic life to develop and prosper, even if this is within the broad confines of the existing Union structures. This may in fact be a last-ditch chance to save the Union as we know it from the alternatives of a federal UK of four nations or a total break-up of the UK into its component parts. Quite what shape the new English politics would take once the English genius is let out of the asphyxiating British lamp is not something that can easily be foreseen. But it seems to me that the Conservative Party is the natural party to guide and steer this process, precisely because of its deep roots in English society and traditions, and the naturally conservative (small ‘c’) character of the English people.

To begin with, the Party could start honestly referring to its England-specific policies and, in government, laws as English, rather than maintaining the present pretence that its policies in areas such as education, health or policing relate to the whole of the UK. In their manifesto at the general election, the Conservatives should reserve a dedicated section to their policies for England, which in fact will make up the majority of their legislative activity in government, given the very many policy areas in which UK governments now have competency for England only. This would be a hugely refreshing change and would demonstrate to people in England, including those that might otherwise be tempted to vote for more nationalist alternatives, that the Conservative Party is mindful of the specific social and economic concerns and needs of English people alongside its responsibilities to the whole of the UK in areas such as the economy or national security.

Such a degree of honesty about England-specific policies need not provoke a cry of indignation from the nationalists and Labour alike that the Conservatives are putting the needs and priorities of English people above those of Scotland and Wales. On the contrary, many people in those countries would also find it refreshing that national-UK politicians were finally accepting the post-devolution realities and not talking about England-specific matters as if they were relevant to them, too. This sort of honesty would be in stark contrast to the behaviour of Labour, in particular, which is clearly seeking to bolster its traditional support in Scotland and Wales based on an appeal to its traditional policies on the NHS and education for which Westminster governments are no longer responsible in those countries. The Tory response to Labour’s gerrymandering manipulation of the West Lothian Question should not be to deny the validity of the question but to show up Labour’s deceit for what it is. The Conservatives can present themselves as a government for Scotland and Wales; but they can’t do so by denying that, in many ways, Westminster administrations are now governments for England alone. There are English matters and there are UK matters, and the way to restore the trust of the public is to recognise the difference and present strong policies in both departments.

The Union is presently under a greater threat than at any previous time in its history, other than in times of war. But the way to respond to this threat is not to deny the identity and democratic aspirations of the largest nation within the Union. New Labour has tried to craft a soulless Britain without England. The challenge for the incoming Conservative government will be to shape a great Britain that still has England at, and in, its heart.

Regrettably, I’m voting UKIP

Never thought I’d say that! I don’t consider myself to be politically right-wing and I’m certainly not a Unionist; so UKIP is far from being a natural political home for me. I don’t like UKIP’s simplistic, black-and-white presentation of the case against the EU and open immigration policies, even though I myself am in favour of the UK’s – or at least England’s – withdrawal from the EU, and of more restricted immigration. And I certainly don’t like UKIP’s defence of the integrity of the UK as a quasi-nation state, governed in a more unitary manner than now from the Westminster centre. I’m an English nationalist not a British Unionist.

So why vote UKIP in the elections for the European Parliament on Thursday of this week? Well, the main reason is to register an anti-EU vote. I don’t think the EU is all bad, and I don’t accept UKIP’s analysis that membership simply costs the UK £40 million per day, for which we do not see any benefit. Being part of the EU has created huge opportunities for trade and business, and has enabled thousands of British people to live, work and prosper in other EU countries, just as it has allowed thousands of people from throughout the EU to come to our country and help create our wealth as well as enrich our culture. But unfortunately, I do believe that the EU is an inherently federal project: that it has an in-built dynamic towards ever greater political as well as economic union. Unsurprisingly, this is not compatible with an English-nationalist position: I want greater political autonomy for England, let alone for Britain; and membership of a sovereign, federal, European super-state that might well see England split up into a number of faceless British ‘regions’ is hardly consistent with that goal.

So why not vote English Democrat? They support both withdrawal from the EU and tougher immigration controls, with the extra positive that they’re (supposedly) a civic English-nationalist party that supports the establishment of an English parliament. I would have liked to be in a position to vote EDP this time. However, I’ve been put off by their links with the racist English First Party (for which they still haven’t come up with a justification), and by the unseemly and childish spat between EDP lead candidate for the South-East Euro-region Steve Uncles and the blogger John Demetriou. These are not, methinks, the mark of a credible political party with a coherent, inclusive vision for a self-governing, multi-ethnic English nation inside or outside of the EU, and inside or outside of the UK.

I also had a short email correspondence with EDP chairman Robin Tilbrook, in which I asked him what the EDP intended to do in the European Parliament if any of its candidates were elected. But they had not thought about this, merely using the European elections as a chance to mount a (much-needed) campaign for fair treatment for England within the UK. But I don’t think that’s good enough: you’re putting forward candidates for a parliament; and, however illegitimate you may think that body’s powers are, you should at least have some idea how having people from your party serving as members of that parliament could be leveraged as an opportunity to provide a distinct voice for England within an influential international forum, and to press the cause of democratic justice for England.

What about the mainstream political parties? The biggest problem I have with them in the context of the Euro elections is that they are all strongly committed to the UK’s continuing membership. On the one hand, the Lib Dems are closest to my position, in that they at least support a referendum on that membership; although, on the other hand, they are far too pro-EU for me to consider voting for them. And they seriously let themselves and the UK down by not sticking to their general-election commitment and voting in favour of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty when Parliament decided on the matter last year.

The Tories did vote in favour of such a referendum, and all credit to them for that. But the Tories are interested in only limited political and constitutional reform, at both EU and national-UK level. They’ll use a vote for them in the Euros as backing for their call to hold a UK general election now, under the existing defective electoral system (they’ve explicitly asked people to vote for them for that reason). And despite Cameron’s claims last week that a Conservative government would introduce radical constitutional reforms, these would not include two of the most vitally needed components: proportional representation and an English layer of governance – English matters to be decided on by English-elected representatives only, whether those of a UK parliament or of a separate English parliament. And the reason why Cameron’s proposals did not include these measures is that they would prevent the Conservatives from ever again being able to gain an absolute UK-wide majority based almost entirely on the way the First-Past-the-Post electoral system transforms a large minority of the vote in England into a large majority of seats in the UK parliament.

Think about it: the Tories’ proposals for ‘resolving’ the West Lothian Question, dubbed ‘English pauses for English clauses’ (English-elected MPs only to be involved at the committee stage of England-only bills), are predicated on the assumption that power will continue to be bestowed to the governing party in a disproportionate way. For example, there could be, as now, a larger Labour majority across the UK as a whole than in England only, taking into account Labour’s comparatively stronger electoral performance in Scotland and Wales. English pauses for English clauses is therefore conceived of as a ‘corrective’ for this imbalance, in that the Tories will be in a smaller minority or hold the balance of power in England, and will be in a better position to influence bills at this crucial stage of their passage through parliament. Under the other, now more likely, scenario, the Tories gain an absolute majority that is greater in England only than in the UK as a whole. In this case, English pauses for English clauses is a concession to the idea of greater responsiveness to the wishes of the English people, as expressed in the ballot box, that costs the Conservatives absolutely nothing. But in either of these instances, the shares of parliamentary seats involved are unrepresentative of the will of English voters and are to a great extent merely a product of the distorting electoral system. So this is ‘reform’ that is designed to maximise the undue, unrepresentative power over English affairs that the system gives to the main parties, and particularly in this instance the Conservatives.

Under a proportional electoral system, on the other hand, assuming that English matters continued to be run by the UK parliament as a whole, the Tories and Labour would simply not be able to carve up English governance for themselves in this undemocratic way. English pauses for English clauses would never get off the ground because the way things would probably resolve themselves is that a new politics of changing cross-party alliances and deals on different issues would emerge; and it’s quite likely in this scenario that a consensus would develop that it was simply inappropriate for Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs to be involved in working out these deals on English-only matters.

Such a way of doing things would also nullify the morally bankrupt whipping system, which is also predicated on parties maximising their unrepresentative seat counts in an adversarial contest that bears little relationship to the way MPs’ constituents might actually think about the merits of individual issues. Little wonder, then, that Cameron’s supposedly radical constitutional reform programme (in reality, merely a bit of tinkering to parliamentary procedure) advocates restricting the role of the whips at the committee stage only: that single part of the parliamentary process where English MPs, supposedly free from the power of the whips, will now be intended to act as a discrete body, but in a way that is in reality calculated to maximise Tory influence); but not at the introductory and final stages of a bill’s passage, where the full weight of the UK-government’s disproportionate allocation of seats across the UK will be wielded to force through legislation that may command little popular support in the country that it actually affects: England. Under PR, the whole rationale for whips dissolves, because there are no disproportionate party-block votes to be wielded and there is much more cross-party collaboration.

But I digress. As for Labour in the European elections, they’re completely beyond the pale in my view: the architects of asymmetric devolution, and the government that has presided over the unprecedented meltdown of the financial system and the general economy that we have experienced in the past year, while also being vehemently pro-EU. Say no more: they’ve got to go.

I thought about voting for the Greens. I think that the EU has played, and could continue to play, a vital role in co-ordinating measures to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce other harmful environmental impacts. Therefore, it’s important that there is a strong Green contingent in the European Parliament; and there certainly should be much greater emphasis on investing in renewable power generation and energy efficiency as part of the efforts to stimulate economic recovery in the UK. But, much as I would like to support the environmental agenda, the Greens go and spoil it all by not only being 100% behind the whole EU project, but also advocating a range of policies that I can only call ‘progressive-British-republican’, including regional devolution within England (absolutely no interest in national-English governance as such), a classic socialist-type commitment to fostering social equality, and abolition of the monarchy. Now, we can argue about the intrinsic merits of equality and how to promote it, and the pros and cons of monarchies versus republics; but I just can’t put my cross next to a vision of a British republic complete with Euro regions (but no England), be that vision e’er so green. An English Republic maybe, in time; but let’s have English self-governance within the United Kingdom first or, failing that, within a restored Kingdom of England!

So I’m left with UKIP as the fall-back position: in favour of EU withdrawal; and punishing the main parties for their pro-EU stance, their failure to deliver a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, the expenses fiasco, and their woefully inadequate and self-serving advocacy of parliamentary and constitutional reform minus an English Parliament. At least UKIP does support some form of English parliament: a system not hugely dissimilar to my previous ‘blueprint for a federal UK‘, whereby there would be a single proportionally elected UK parliament that would split for part of the time into separate bodies for each UK nation (including England but minus Cornwall) – although UKIP’s vision is both more unitary than mine, and involves less change to the structure and procedures of the established Westminster Parliament. But in any case, if the party-political establishment does ever concede the need for an English parliament, I doubt very much that it’s the UKIP model (or mine, for that matter) that they’ll be turning to. It’ll be whatever version allows them to preserve as much of their privileges and unrepresentative power that they can hold on to – unless we stop them.

But on Thursday, it’s about Europe. And I reckon that UKIP is the best of a bad lot. At least, a vote for them signals an unambiguous demand for a referendum on Britain’s, and England’s, membership of the EU. The mainstream parties won’t listen to that call if you vote for them, that’s for sure.