According to news reports this weekend, David Cameron who promised us all greater sovereignty as part of the settlement for the Scottish voters in the hours after the referendum in September, has now ruled out tax raising powers for English Cities. However he has explained to Parliamentary colleagues that he is keen for English MPs to have the power to stop laws being imposed on them as a result of votes by MPs for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whilst this might satisfy Mr Cameron it does not feel to me like a major step forward. Labour for their part are refusing to discuss English Devolution of any sort with anyone, primarily it seems because they won’t ever be able to hold a majority of these English constituencies. The whole tenor of these concerns and statements are predicated on the assumption that power comes from the centre and that what counts is what happens to MPs and their Parties, as opposed to any meaningful devolution, or as the Europeans say, subsidiarity. I am still naïve enough to think that MPs are meant to serve their constituents, not that voters are simply intended to validate the views of their ‘representatives’ every 5 years. Any sense that my views chime with those of the majority of MPs has been washed away during the recent Rochester and Strood by-election when various MPs have spoken of winning the seat [for the party] or winning it back at the General Election, as though these Kentish voters were simply bystanders to a power struggle taking place between the parties.
The reality is that the power which was being debated by the various groups either side of Hadrians Wall, the power that constitutionally belongs to you and I through the ballot box has actually been taken hostage by 650 people in the House of Commons and around 900 in the House of Lords. When David Cameron speaks about distinguishing between English MPs and British MPs, he is not contemplating removing Power from London W1, but simply redistributing it amongst 1500 people who are protected from the rest of us by safety glass, steel barriers that could stop a truck bomb and some very well armed Police Officers who have been trained to kill. The small number of mostly Northern Cities that have been encouraged to imagine how they might deal with greater autonomy might find that their Christmas Stockings are actually full of coal, while all of the presents have remained in the Westminster grotto. As for parts of the country where the largest urban centres are more modest, sadly their fireplaces might not even have a few lumps of coal to burn.