Slugger O'Toole

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Carwyn Jones looking for a national senate to replace the Lords…

Thu 9 February 2012, 10:16am

A couple of weeks ago, on the sidelines of the newly revitalised Scottish Question, Carwyn Jones, the Labour leader in the Welsh Assembly made some remarks that have created some ripples in his own back yard:

Asked how Wales would fare if Scotland voted for independence, he said: “I think we need to start thinking about this now.

“It appears at the moment from the opinion polls that Scotland wouldn’t leave the UK, but how do we make the UK fit for purpose in the 21st Century?

“We have a political structure that’s from the 18th and 19th Centuries.”

He suggested there was scope to reform the Lords so its members are elected on the basis of equal representation between the UK nations.

David Jones in today’s South Wales Echo says that by co-opting nationalist ideas, the Labour leader is playing with nationalist fire:

Carwyn’s logic sees the Welsh, English and Northern Irish as very different peoples whose interests are so distinct they must have equally strong voices in an upper chamber. It is a way of thinking that, at the very least, you have to say has a nationalist flavour.

As a Welsh Labour leader he would almost certainly dispute my argument, and it may be he has positioned himself as a critic of the current structure of the UK simply to park his tanks on a prime bit of political real estate – rather than out of any personal belief.

It’s certainly true that his positioning has left Plaid Cymru in a mess. With the “more devolution … let’s shake up the UK” position firmly taken by Welsh Labour, Plaid’s leadership contenders have been left in a destructive argument about independence that, polls clearly show, few people in Wales want.

And yet whatever the reason, Carwyn’s logic is divisive because it leads to a dead end – an upper chamber with equal numbers of Welsh, English and Northern Irish representatives could not work as it would not represent the rump of the UK as a whole, and would be unacceptable to the largest part of it, England.

Wales and Northern Ireland (with a combined population of fewer than 5m) would together have twice as many representatives as England’s 50m people. It would skew politics. A party of the left would dominate, the interests of the bulk of people in the UK would not be represented.

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Comments (13)

  1. HeinzGuderian (profile) says:

    …….. leadership contenders have been left in a destructive argument about independence that, polls clearly show, few people in Wales want.

    Few people in Scotland want it as well.

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  2. farrochie (profile) says:

    HeinzGuderian,
    “Few people in Scotland want it as well.”

    Independence is the natural state for every country. The facts speak for themselves. There was a massive vote for the SNP in the May 2011 election. In Scotland, people are saying YES to the truth about our economy, YES to a better future in an independent Scotland, YES to governing ourselves and not being in the hands of Tory and Labour administrations selected by Middle England. Those days are over.

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  3. Drumlins Rock (profile) says:

    That was a Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the SNP.

    Thank-you farrochie.

    Back to the real world now… except the proposal above is so crackpot it isn’t even in the solar system, maybe there is a case for some weighting in the Lords ( no need to fart about changing names either ) but on a minimal amount. The simplist system is each party gets to appoint Lords based on their popular vote, with a fixed upper limit of members and term limits, an indirect list system of sorts, good enough for Euro elections in England so do the Lords ok. Scotland, Wales & NI can have a allocation of seats based on the popular votes in their respective areas. Simples.

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  4. weidm7 (profile) says:

    The South Wales Echo? Do you casually browse every regional newspaper in the UK, in case of an interesting article? I don’t mean to be sarky, I’d love to know your process, you find some gems.

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  5. weidm7 (profile) says:

    “Few people in Scotland want it as well.”

    The BBC website, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16473265 says “Polling expert John Curtice says support for independence is somewhere between 32 and 38%”

    Scotland’s population is 5.2 million according to wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotland), 35% of 5.2million is 1.82 million, which would class as more than ‘few’. Would you care to acknowledge the error in your statement?

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  6. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Heinz, you really ought to.

    Weidim, I use a variety of news sourcing tools. Newsnow is good one for the papers. I thought Jones’ idea was one of the more interesting and innovative coming from the unionist side. It is at least an attempt to address a problem. How practical it is is another matter?

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  7. lover not a fighter (profile) says:

    It never fails to surprise me that many comentators come up with plenty of ideas for appointing Lords.

    My surprise is how few go for the democratic option.

    Was it not Churchill that said that democracy was a terrible system barring all the others ! ! !

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  8. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    But the idea of giving regions a place at the national parliament has both a rationale and potentially an appeal. But I suspect it would mean tweaking the balance of power between the two.

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  9. Dewi (profile) says:

    “But the idea of giving regions a place at the national parliament”

    Or maybe giving nations a place at an island parliament?

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  10. Dewi (profile) says:

    Anyway Carwyn has the wonderful advantage in a politician of complete and absolute pragmatism. Trouble is he’s done nothing useful yet with our glorious new powers.

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  11. PaddyReilly (profile) says:

    My surprise is how few go for the democratic option.

    A frequent and ill-founded complaint. The point is that you cannot have two elected authorities as you then have a constitutional crisis when they disagree. The House of Commons is the elected chamber, and the only elected chamber, so in the event of a disagreement of opinion with the House of Lords, it is the House of Commons’s decision which will prevail. If necessary the House of Commons can reform or abolish the House of Lords. This principle is also applied to the European Commission, which is staffed by appointment, not election. Sovereignty resides in the Parliaments of the member nations, and has never been ceded to the EU.

    A Jewish congregation near the International Dateline in Japan were uncertain as to when they should celebrate Yom Kippur, and consulted two different authorities, always a big mistake, and duly received two different answers. There is an element of masochism in the Jewish religion, a sense that one must bend over backwards to please the Holy One, blessed be He, in the world he created according to His will, plus a feeling that doing so is a pleasure. So they celebrated Yom Kippur twice over, on adjacent days. That option is not open to us.

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  12. farrochie (profile) says:

    “Asked how Wales would fare if Scotland voted for independence, he said: “I think we need to start thinking about this now.”

    I think this is really what needs further discussion.

    And don’t refer me to polls. Scotland has never had a nationwide vote on Independence. What we have learned from the fiasco of 1979 is, firstly, they tell us if Scots just wait they’ll get a better offer (Calman?). Secondly, the truth will be concealed (read the McCrone Report) and the facts distorted in the interests of maintaining the union. Finally, people need to vote overwhelmingly when they really want something as they did in the Devolution vote and in the May 2011 election. There is no simple left and right, Labour and Tory in Scotland now.

    I think all political parties need to start thinking about a new shape of politics. Few are doing so, or at least they are not admitting to it. (“and why should we”? they say).

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  13. Mick Fealty (profile) says:

    Providing the Union continues to cohere, I don’t think the English would wear Carwyn’s model. That’s why the Unionist cause needs to go back to basics and rethink this stuff from basics.

    Few in Yorkshire for instance want regional government, but places in a Senate would cost less and give some place for Yorkshire concerns currently being ignored by Westminster/London.

    My one negative on this is that it may not be ‘man enough’ to deliver what it promises.

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