Monday, May 10, 2010


The last week in the UK has been quite momentous, at least from a political viewpoint. We’ve been through the most exciting General Election in decades, and 4 days after it all happened, we still have no idea what’s going to happen. As I tap these keys, Gordon Brown has just resigned, so another rock in the pool. We have politicians claiming to be acting solely in the “National Interest”, and having to understand the word “compromise” for the first time in ages, as two parties who make significantly uncomfortable bedfellows, try to square the many political circles facing them both.

If, before last Thursday, you were trying to make the result as uncomfortable as possible for all three major parties, you’d have ended up choosing just about the position we’ve actually found ourselves in. If it wasn’t so serious, you’d collapse laughing at it all. It’s one of those stories which, if you read it in a novel, you simply wouldn’t believe.

And because of the involvement of the Lib-Dems, where Proportional Representation (PR) is a religion, this issue leaps to the front of your thoughts.

There is no doubt at all that the structure of the way we hold our elections is not right. To start with, we have too many Member of Parliament in this country and we simply don’t need 650 MPs.

In addition, the constituencies need to be massively rebalanced – it is quite wrong that constituencies exist with such dramatically different numbers of electors in them. It’s supposed to be a democracy surely – at least I thought it was, and in electoral terms, we’re all supposed to be equal. The average constituency in the UK has around 74,000 electors, but the Western Isles seat in Scotland has 22,000 and the Isle of Wight in Southern England has 110,000. Where’s, in heaven’s name, is the fairness in that? A Scotsman with 5 times the electoral power of someone in Ventnor.

The debate about PR, and the virtues and vices of the many alternative systems is not an easy one, and there is absolutely no right answer. Even explaining it to the average person is a major task. Just look at the explanation of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system on Google if you don’t believe me. The task of getting the electorate firstly to understand and then ultimately agree on a replacement process is, in my opinion just what this country does NOT need at the moment. It's the Economy, Stupid.

You only have to look at the political map of the UK for one thing to jump out at you. Scotland is almost a complete mix of Lib-Dems and Labour seats – Red and Orange covers the map, with the Tories having only 1 seat in the whole of Scotland. Look at the rest of the UK, and it’s totally different - the situation in the rest of the country is covered in blue with the Tories, geographically at least being the overwhelmingly dominant force. Just look at the numbers, and you see an almost complete divide between Scotland and the rest of the country. Surely, this presents an obvious option.

The maths seems, on the surface, straightforward. The UK electorate has spoken and voted with the Tories getting 306 seats, Labour 258 and the Lib-Dems ending up on 57 – what is technically known as a Dog’s Breakfast. No one party can do anything with that set of numbers. Take the Scots out of the equation however, and the English (well alright, including the Welsh and the Northern Irish as well) situation is transformed. The Tories would have 305 seats, Labour has 217, and the Lib-Dems 46. If you balanced out the constituencies out properly and fairly, the differences would be even greater. The electorate, or at least the English electorate, has spoken. Decisive One Party Government – QED.

Our current impasse is down to the ridiculously inappropriate effect of the Scottish electorate on the UK. The whole of the Scottish votes cast for ALL parties (2.47 million) is less than 80% of the 3.02 million rag-bag of “Others” who voted in the whole of the UK, votes which interestingly only generated 22 seats between them. So how can the Scots possibly believe they’ve got any moral right to argue against this situation.

Stand back from it all for a minute. The Scots, as a nation, at best dislike, and at worst, hate the English, and, as far as most of the English are concerned, they love Scotland as a place, but we are not, taken as a whole, quite so keen on its inhabitants. Three hundred years of Union have not resolved this issue, and today, it’s still the Haggis, rather than the Elephant, in the Room. The West Lothian Question, which is amazingly lost in the background noise of this election needs to be polished and burnished for the electorate to consider its position.

So let’s give them what they (or at least the majority of Scotsmen and Englishmen) actually want, and let them go their own way. The Scots actually cost the British economy a fortune. England pays them a vast premium, with England’s far superior wealth generation supporting the Scots inability to do so, with a massive subsidy. And the simple question now is – Why do we let this carry on?

They’ve got their own Parliament now (paid for by the English!), so they have got the administrative structure in place. Let them have their oil. Let them sort their own Tax structure out. We’ll still defend them against the world, but they can pay a fair share of the cost of doing it. They’ve got brains, and they never cease to tell you how many intellectual developments which have changed the world have their roots in Bonnie Scotland. So let these clever souls sort it all out for themselves. Let them charge everyone to go to Scotland to see the glories of the Highlands and Islands. Let them have the immense revenues from Whisky, Drambuie and Harris Tweed. They have a strong thread of University prowess and considerable entrepreneurial skills – so let them use it to concentrate on forging their own destiny.

From my (probably jaundiced) view, I can easily live with Scotland being a separate country. It would stop their continual whinging having any effect on us Southerners. And at least, England could at least make a sane decision on British Summer time without worrying about a little old lady in Thurso who would find it too dark when she got up to make her porridge in mid March, preventing the rest of us enjoying the day as we should.

Rant over!

Now all I’ve got to do is to explain all this to my Scottish wife. I suspect a separate bedroom beckons tonight!

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