It’s not often the leader of the DUP says something I agree with….

After her recent slow car crash with John Humphrys on Today, one would have thought that Theresa May would have spent the rest of the election campaign getting quietly lost in darkest Maidenhead.

But, oh no, at the weekend she came back with a bang in an interview with the Mail on Sunday:

If we saw a Labour Government propped up by SNP it could be the biggest constitutional crisis since the abdication. It would mean Scottish MPs who have no responsibility for issues like health, education and policing in their own constituencies [as they are devolved to the Scottish Parliament] making decisions on those issues for England and Wales. Rightly, people in England would say, “hang on a minute why are Scottish Nationalist MPs allowed to do that?” Miliband would be in government on the coat-tails of Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. They would be calling the tune – people who don’t want the UK to exist and want to destroy our country. There would be a very real feeling was this was something people did not want to see, had not voted for and would find very difficult to accept. It would raise difficult questions about legitimacy. A lot of English people would question that.

I knew this was wrong. Very wrong. But I could not quite articulate why it was wrong.

Help came from the unusual source of Nigel Dodds, leader of the DUP, who very succinctly shredded Mrs May’s argument:

Take the ‘right’ of SNP MPs to vote in the Commons, or the supposed lack of legitimacy that stems from it. No one who purports to be a unionist can question it. They have the right. That’s why we fought and won the referendum: to enshrine the rights of Scots to go on sending representatives, fully equal to every other, to Westminster. Glib and lazy talk about SNP MPs somehow not being as entitled to vote in every division in the Commons as any other British MP simply fuels nationalist paranoia.

Then he added another zinger:

The Commons can’t be used as an ersatz, part-time English Assembly. It’s the Union parliament, and abusing it in this way wouldn’t and couldn’t answer the very real needs England has.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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17 Comments

  • Absolutely. I wish we had got in there first, rather than having to rely on the DUP to make this argument.

  • Matt (Bristol) 28th Apr '15 - 10:07am

    Well, we need other voices from other political perspectives to pull together; it is good when someone who has utterly nothing in common with us agrees with us, as it makes the case that we speak with commonsense rather than out of our own strange ideology — however, if we had been stronger on EVEL and not proposed our ‘grand committee’ compromise, this wouldn’t have quite been so necessary.

    I hope that the DUP are able to torpedo EVEL if Cameron needs them for a majority, then.

  • He talks about ‘Rights’, when he and his party vote against ‘Equality’ for the LGBT community in NI, who are again refused equality that the rest of the UK have voted for:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-northern-ireland-32488247

    :-/

  • That the SNP have a right to their place in Westminster is not in doubt. It’s the fact that they have no interest in the wellbeing of people south of Hadrian’s Wall that is the point, and will result in ‘ransom tainted’ policies in Westminster. Sooner or later the SNP’s ransom tactics will have to be addressed by the body politic which is South of Hadrian’s Wall,..and Scotland will have to be ‘let go’ It is inevitable,.. and just a matter of how long the English will take their being held to ransom?

  • I’m not a fan of the DUP but I do think he articulates the problem with the Conservatives rhetoric about the SNP very well. If we do ever have an English Assembly then there is no way it can be based in the home of the British Parliament. . A separate seat of government with separate votes is the only way of implementing an English Assembly. The point is that the SNP won a majority in Scotland not that they excluded other parties from voting on Scottish issues. If the Conservative won a majority or more seats in Scotland they would have more say, but they didn’t. They were not excluded from voting or sent to the naughty step so that only Scottish parties could vote. The Tories always try to claim some special place in the national psyche and attempt to equate their failures or success with some sort of national crisis or victory.

  • Helen Tedcastle 28th Apr '15 - 1:10pm

    I agree with this. The Conservative Party is not democratic. They think they have the right to govern alone and for the interests of the English – specifically those who vote for them in the south east.

    Nigel Dodds is simply pointing out that this is a union and that the views and opinions and cultures of these islands need to be represented in the national parliament (whether we like it or not).

    I’m not often in agreement with the DUP, yet if we believe in diversity and pluralism, then it is churlish not to agree with him.

  • Denis Loretto 29th Apr '15 - 10:16am

    @Shaun Young
    You do not have to go far to find good reasons to denigrate lots of what the DUP say and stand for. That is the point of Paul Walter’s article – that it is faintly embarrassing to find from this source such an articulate and well reasoned assessment of the car-crash towards which the anti SNP (anti Scots?) rhetoric is heading.

    Either – as John Dunn has above – you already write off the prospect of keeping Scotland in the Union or you find a way to accommodate the democratic choice its citizens make in elections. As a native Ulsterman who spent 12 years of my political life opposing just about everything the DUP stood for I applaud this particular statement from Nigel Dodds.

  • matt (Bristol) 29th Apr '15 - 10:51am

    John Dunn, if you are right that we are on a sliding slope towards scottish secession (a lot of Ss there) – and I hope you are not – but then we do nothing to attempt to arrest that slide, not introducing proportional or preferential systems into the eleciton of MPs in Scotland the rest of the UK, not introducing federal-level structures in England to balance the devolved assemblies, etc, etc – then no-one can argue even if it does happen that it was ‘inevitable’ because potential remedies were ignored.

    UK-wide Constitutional reform in which England gets its house in order and institutes structures that parallel those in N Ireland, Scotland and Wale, is the only way to keep Scotland within the union/federation of the UK; those who oppose meaningful reform promote Scottish separatism by the back door.

  • Matt (Bristol) “UK-wide Constitutional reform in which England gets its house in order and institutes structures that parallel those in N Ireland, Scotland and Wale, is the only way to keep Scotland within the union/federation of the UK; those who oppose meaningful reform promote Scottish separatism by the back door.”

    I fully agree with this – the key point to me is how you institute devolved power in England.

    My personal preference is within the existing County structure – it doesn’t involve introducing another expensive and potentially unpopular tier of government; it avoids the English Parliament dwarfing the other 3; and it covers most if not all of the Northern cities.

  • The English imposed federal systems on Australia, Canada, South Africa and after 1945 on Germany.

    Odd that they have never got to grips with a federal concept for England.

  • @John Tilley -“English”?

    Scots were over-represented in the administration of the British Empire.

  • John Roffey 29th Apr '15 - 1:54pm

    matt (Bristol) 29th Apr ’15 – 10:51am
    “John Dunn, if you are right that we are on a sliding slope towards scottish secession”

    I seriously doubt if this is the case. Although [now the majority] the Scots recognise that they will get the best deal financially and legally by voting for the SNP – this is a far cry from the majority wanting independence. As we saw in the referendum it was the concern that large corporations would move from Scotland to England – if the Scots became independent. This view in likely to be even more acute since the drop in oil prices has blown a large hole in the SNP proposed budget at that time. The low oil price is predicted to last for at least the medium term.

    If this dominance by the Scots is not to be a feature for a number of GEs to come, if not indefinitely, the only long term solution and if the Lib/Dems want to be of significance, is to back federal government with devo-max for each nation and English regions. In this way it is likely to find itself current and with many allies – instead of burdened with policies that are of little interest to the majority of voters and few opportunities to promote these policies within the MSM.

  • @Ian sanderson that was me.

    A characature; but if we look at the British Empire, the English provided the money, the scots provided the management
    , and the Irish the labour.

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