Conservatives and the Union

September 30, 2008

Just a couple of days after Gordon Brown was nicking SNP policies and passing them off as Labour policies in his conference speech, now the Conservatives do the same.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne has just announced the Conservatives will introduce a freeze in Council Tax in England.

Of course, this successful SNP policy in Scotland was opposed by the Scottish Conservatives in the May 2007 Scottish election.

They argued for a reduction in council tax for pensioners instead.

Just how will they take the new Conservative policy in England?

And there is the rub.

No matter how much David Cameron says he believes in the Union, the Scottish Conservative Party and the UK Conservative Party are becoming more out of sync.

Of course, with devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland policy divergence between the Scottish branch of the Conservative Party (and for that matter the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party) and its UK counterpart is only to be expected.

And the longer devolution makes policy decisions that are only applicable to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the greater this policy divergence will become.

So it seems to me that it would be better for the Conservatives just to have done, and liberate their devolved partners and instead become the English Conservative Party.

This case applies more to the Conservatives who only have 1 MP in Scotland, and 3 MPs in Wales; than Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

That would leave the English Conservatives room to strongly argue the case for an English Parliament, or even ending the Treaty of the Union altogether.

It already has been the most dominant of the main parties giving proposals to try and answer the West Lothian Question. For example here and here and here and here and here are just some of the Conservative proposals. Yet English votes for English matters may just bring about the end of the Treaty of Union anyway.

And ditching its support of the Treaty of the Union could make an English Conservative Party the main party of Government in England for decades to come.

David Cameron may be against Independence for Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales now, but if the planned 2010 referendum in Scotland doesn’t end up with Scotland leaving the UK, he may find that Labour will once again regain control of the UK purely because of its Scottish and Welsh MPs.

And if the West Lothian Question has not been answered by then, the pressure on his party to change position may become unbearable.

Surely taking a long-term view it is better to change now whilst ahead in the polls and in a position of strength?

Right now, their professed support for the Union in words isn’t backed by their actions.

For example, their plans for a high-speed rail network that only goes as far north as Leeds.

Now David Cameron may say that he will run the line up to Scotland at a later date – he doesn’t say when – but I doubt it will convince Scots voters.

Again, a high-speed rail link was SNP policy, but obviously they planned for the service to go between Edinburgh and London.

The Conservatives need to come clean on their view of the Union:

They need to back up their words with actions.

Or will they steal another SNP policy? Independence?

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Is England softening on Local Income Tax?

September 8, 2008

As the argument in Scotland rages about LIT, it seems that there is softening in England over the Local Income Tax policy.

First of all, Michael Portillo, former Conservative minister has come out in favour of LIT.

“Having thought hard about local government finance, I am convinced that an income tax supplement must be part of any equitable local tax system. I admit that earners would pay more and high earners much more, but greater social justice is not a powerful argument against it.

More importantly, raising the money in that way would enable local government to grow in scope and importance. By comparison with almost every country I know, we suffer from chronically weak local government and from central government that is too powerful. Decisions are made remotely, national policies are imposed although they are inappropriate in most localities and terrible amounts of public money get wasted.”

And now even Labour bloggers are starting to argue in favour.

And even some Greens argue for LIT.

And if English bloggers are starting to favour LIT for England, could this tempt Gordon Brown into another U-turn?