West Midlands NO!

Regional government: unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable and unwanted

Charles Clarke: Give power to regions of England or UK will not be stable

Posted by wonkotsane on January 1, 2007

Missed this nugget from the Scotsman in November …

Give power to regions of England or UK will not be stable – Clarke

JAMES KIRKUP AND HAMISH MACDONELL
ENGLAND must be given more political representation or the United Kingdom will be at risk of “constitutional instability”, Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, will warn today.

In a speech in Edinburgh, Mr Clarke will become the most senior Labour figure so far to make the argument that constitutional change in Britain should not stop with devolution for Scotland and Wales.

While he stops short of supporting a full English parliament, Mr Clarke insists that the UK government and parliament must do much more to recognise England’s regions.

“I am not certain that this range of reforms has yet taken us to a new and stable constitutional equilibrium and it is even possible that some of the changes could lead to future instability unless the appropriate action is taken,” Mr Clarke will tell an audience at Edinburgh University.

He enters the constitutional debate on the day that Tony Blair is in Scotland hoping to regain ground being lost to the SNP.

Constitutional issues are rising up the agenda: polls show increasing support for Scottish independence, and more and more MPs detect a growing sense of English nationhood.

A cross-party English Constitutional Convention was also launched last month.

Mr Clarke, who left the Cabinet in May, will argue that to reflect England’s identity, government departments in London should be restructured “in a way which respects regional boundaries” south of the Border.

He will also call for the creation of select committees in the House of Commons reflecting English regions’ interests.

“I think the current situation does not give sufficient priority to the needs of the English regions and so is potentially unstable,” Mr Clarke will say. “It needs to be addressed.”

Mr Clarke’s analysis echoes that of the Labour-majority Scottish affairs committee of MPs, which warned in June that an English backlash against devolution could undermine Labour’s constitutional framework.

Mr Clarke’s speech sets out a broad vision of constitutional change, including more reform of the House of Lords, stripping prime ministers of their power to nominate peers.

Mr Blair himself is also focusing on constitutional issues this week, and the question of Scottish independence.

Speaking to the Scottish Labour conference in Oban today, Mr Blair will continue the economic offensive against the SNP he launched with an article in The Scotsman yesterday.

The Oban conference will be dominated behind the scenes by the SNP threat, particularly following First Minister Jack McConnell’s admission on Wednesday night that there is “a real possibility” that the nationalists could win in May and “take Scotland to the brink of independence”.

A YouGov poll, for the Daily Telegraph, shows Labour and the SNP almost neck-and-neck in the battle for Holyrood, with 32 per cent each on the constituency vote and only 1 per cent between them on the regional vote.

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