Friday, May 13, 2005

Pandora's box

The Scotsman complains about Norman Tebbit's recent comments on the Tory leadership. The former Conservative chairman said that he didn't think Malcolm Rifkind should be Tory leader because he is a Scot.

The Scotsman's leader writer says (it's not online, so no link) :
But Lord Tebbit's distasteful intervention trivialises the problem. The Tories are a national party and must seek the most able leader, regardless of their origins. As for the West Lothian question, that requires some constitutional reform, probably involving MPs from English constituencies - including Sir Malcolm - sitting as an English Grand Committee.
I don't think the writer of this piece is grasping the issue. Why would the English want a Grand Committee? A Grand Committee would presumably have no power to initiate legislation, and could be overruled by the House of Commons. The English are paying for vast numbers of unproductive Scots and Welsh. Scots and Welsh MPs will be imposing on England Labour policies for which the English did not vote. That constitutional injustice can only be remedied by an English parliament.

And it will not end there. The English Parliament will surely seek to end the Barnett formula, and force the Celts to start to fund their own bloated public sectors. This may actually be cause for optimism. Like a bum addicted to welfare, the Celtic fringe has lived off English subsidy for too long. Industry and risk taking are frowned upon. Success is sneered at and, incredibly, there is still a widespread belief in socialism. If the English take their money back, the Celts will be forced to live off their own earnings. While the existing motley collection of Scottish politicians might try to tax their way out of taking difficult decisions, this would be unsupportable in even the short term. A new, business-friendly approach would surely follow, and who knows even a second flowering of Scottish industry and culture.

Norman Tebbit is right. The English will want balance restored to the constitution and they will want their money back. It would be amazing if they thought a Scottish lawyer would deliver that for them. The Conservative party has to recognise that in its choice of a leader - national party or not, the votes may well be in delivering for the English. It's not trivial. It's serious. For better or for worse Pandora's box is open.