Sunday, October 28, 2007

The East Lothian Answer

Today's Observer has a non-story (which R4 news bulletins later led with, for some reason) on the long-running saga of how the Conservatives should answer the West Lothian Question. It's a non-story because it was in the Herald on 1 October, and has been floating around for about a year before that. It was in the Edinburgh Evening News in early 2006. Today's Sunday Times has a slightly more sensible take on it.

Anyway, beyond being old news, the Observer report also fundamentally misunderstands what Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Scottish Secretary who's come up with the scheme, is actually proposing. In a nutshell, Riffers proposes that an English Grand Commitee (composed of all English Members) should consider purely English legislation (whatever that is) at the Second Reading and Committee stages, while every MP gets a vote on the final reading with the convention that nothing passed by a majority of English MPs should be overturned by the full floor of the house. The Observer report omits that last detail, which is odd, as it's the only point which separates Rifkind's 'East Lothian Answer' (he has a house in Inveresk) from the daft old English Votes for English Laws plan.

The Observer's crack political team also appear under the impression that the voting rights of Scottish MPs is somehow linked to the Barnett Formula. The architect of the formula that isn't really a formula, Lord (Joel) Barnett, was on R4 this evening saying that (the Observer version of) the Tory plan would lead to the end of the Union.

Apparently, and the Herald also had this line earlier this month, Cameron is looking favourably on the proposal, which has been submitted by Riffers to Ken Clarke's Democracy Taskforce. It is, in my humble and irrelevant opinion, eminently sensible and a more elegant solution to an inelegant problem.


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