Ever since the advent of devolution when New Labour were swept to power in 1997, the United Kingdom’s political structure has been incredibly lopsided. Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London have all had their own political bodies while most of England is subject to purely Westminster-rule.
Current devolution allows for different views across the country to be heard and recognised. It also allows for policy experiments where a new programme can be tested in one part of the country. If successful, other devolved nations can learn from their parliamentary cousins and attempt to replicate the successes.
Devolution is also a form of localism, which brings power closer to the people. Of course, the big nation-wide policy areas of foreign affairs and defence should remain under control of one roof, but the devolution of other areas has allowed for local solutions to local problems. One size does not fit all.
But there is one thing missing from this equation. One massive thing: England. Devolution has been a success across the country, but England is yet to reap the benefits of it. Some may say the ship has sailed, but with the SNPin decline, and Plaid Cymru stagnating, there is no better time than now for the launch of a Federal United Kingdom – or a Federal Britain to avoid the unfortunate acronym. A 2015 Mos poll even put support for an English parliament at 59% in 2014, as reported by the Daily Mail at the time.
It is time for full federalism and a written constitution to recognise the rights and powers of Britain’s internal states.
One criticism of a potential British federal state is that England is too big and what would be the difference between an English parliament and a British parliamen?. Firstly, the elections for each would be fought on different issues, allowing voters to differentiate their votes depending on the policies available. Voter A might like the Conservatives’ stance on foreign affairs while she might also like the Liberal Democrats’ policies on education. This vertical separation of powers would empower said voter.
Secondly, let’s allow the people of England decide. As a Scot, I have had my fair share of public votes in recent years; it is time for England to have its own referendum. If the country wants an English parliament, give it to them. If there is demand for regional assemblies – or similar – which would localise power further down the chain – then give it to them. If the country was to go down that path then provisions could be made for recognising England as a whole in some sort of English Council.
There are plenty of options out there, but the people will not give an answer until they are asked. It is time for a new referendum. It is time for England to have its say.