The constitutional issue hangs over Labour's conference like a spectre at the feastby Jonathan Derbyshire / September 22, 2014 / Leave a comment
The first MP I saw when I arrived at the Labour conference this morning was Jon Cruddas, the head of the party’s policy review. On my way to the conference centre, I’d been thinking about a fascinating interview with Cruddas by Mary Riddell In yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph. The main topic of conversation, inevitably, was the fallout from the Scottish independence referendum and the challenge David Cameron has set for Labour in his early-morning statement in Downing Street about the pressing need to solve the “West Lothian question” with “English votes on English laws.”
Cruddas was interested in the “English Question” long before it became either fashionable or, thanks to the “vow” by the three party leaders that the Scottish Parliament will be given further significant powers, unavoidable (though some Labour members in Manchester would rather talk about living standards and the living wage than constitutional questions, which they’re inclined to dismiss as a side show.) So, coming from him, the suggestion that the Prime Minister’s timetable for resolving the multiple problems of English representation is simultaneously too ambitious and too narrowly conceived sounds less evasively tactical than it might. “[It’s] better,” Cruddas told Riddell, echoing Ed Miliband’s call for a constitutional convention, “to crack this issue open and invite the views of citizens and representatives of civil society.”
It should be noted, though, that it seems some MPs would prefer a more decisive response to the West Lothian Question, Ben Bradshaw among them (as the Telegraph reports). Voters may also judge the Labour leadership harshly if they are perceived as indecisive on the issue. According to a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times yesterday, 72 per cent of the English electorate want Scottish MPs excluded from parliamentary votes on English affairs.