Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Questions answered: Questions remain

So, it looks will be a Tory-Lib Dem coalition.  David Cameron will be PM.  And Nick Clegg will be Deputy PM, while the Lib Dems have FIVE seats in the Cabinet and another FIFTEEN Ministerial jobs.  Still rumoured, but if so - that's some impressive negotiating by the Lib Dems.

But with the answer to one question (that is, who will be running the country, and the form of government it will take) several more arise.

One of the most prominent:  whither the nations of the UK?  For the first time since devolution was delivered no party that is in government at Westminster will be in power in any of the devolved institutions.  A CON-LD coalition at UK level is added to a LAB-PLAID deal in Cardiff Bay, an SNP minority administration at Holyrood and an all-party power-sharing deal at Stormont.  How will partisan clashes shape the future of devolution in the UK?  And will how will each nation react to what look like huge cuts from Westminster to their funding settlement?

This is particularly relevant for Wales, where the two parties in opposition in Cardiff - a distinct minority in the National Assembly - will now have an effective veto over Legislative Competence Orders from the NAW on devolving further powers, given that they are now the UK government.  This may bring forward the need for a referendum on extending devolution to Wales or it may scupper it entirely.

For Scotland, how will the (yet to be confirmed) appointment of Danny Alexander as Secretary of State impact on Holyrood-Westminster relations?  Previously we talked of the Tories taking the position from their sole Scottish MP David Mundell, but handing it to "Lord" McLetchie.  And it does appear that PM Cameron doesn't think Mundell was up to the job - either personally or due to the fact that the Tories only have one seat in Scotland.  But - here's the kicker - WHY would the Lib Dems accept the position, knowing how unpopular the Tories are in Scotland, and knowing that they will have to defend an unpopular Tory-led government?  Even stranger... why put Alistair Carmichael up for the Scottish "leader" debates then ignore him when you get the corresponding Cabinet seat?

Another, how much has each party compromised in their negotiations?  William Hague says it is "the bulk of the Tory manifesto and the best of the Lib Dem one".  But is it secure?  Can a party who supports more integration into the EU really back a party who is primarily sceptical about Europe?  Can a party who wants an amnesty on EU immigration stay quiet when the coalition puts a cap on these figures?  Can a party resolutely opposed to renewing Trident actually sit on its hands while its coalition partner votes through legislation on that subject?

There are plenty more questions, but this is long enough already.  Where do we go from here?  Time will tell... we will (apparently) have a fixed five year term to see how it pans out.


Mark 12 May 2010 at 16:09  

"WHY would the Lib Dems accept the position, knowing how unpopular the Tories are in Scotland, and knowing that they will have to defend an unpopular Tory-led government?"

Because, by your logic, it's still better than a Tory Secretary of State? Which other party do you expect Cameron to hand it to?

Malc 12 May 2010 at 17:06  

I don't "expect" Cameron to hand it to any other party - I'm not stupid. I just think the Lib Dems have been a little naive with this one.

Yes, it solves the problem for the Tories of having only 1 Scottish MP and not having a mandate in Scotland (not that the Lib Dem mandate is much bigger, in terms of votes).

But it means the Lib Dems will be carrying the can - running the Scotland Office - for policies that they do not necessarily agree with. Seems a strange one.

Mark 12 May 2010 at 17:08  

I know what you mean, Malc; indeed, for a long time, the Scottish Secretary has been seen as 'our man at Westminster'. However, maybe the Holyrood administration need to remember that he's really 'our man in Edinburgh'...

Malc 12 May 2010 at 17:18  

That's a fair point. I don't think Salmond ever saw Murphy as "his man in Westminster" though. But yes, times change, roles change: Alexander will be the Tories' man in Edinburgh. And that has to hurt for Tavish & co.

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