The Federal United Kingdom?

TREASON (and other good ideas)In the aftermath of the Scottish referendum, which saw the Scots vote to stay part of the Union, 55%-45%, I interviewed John Redwood MP, who has been the driving force behind the proposals of English MPs (only) for English votes.

He took me through his plan, which no doubt he pushed for in a mini-conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in Chequers days after the Scottish vote.

Basically, it’s a simple plan. There will be no new English parliament, they’ll use the current one in Westminster. There will be no “Members of English Parliament”, they’ll just use the current MPs who represent English constituencies. Mr. Redwood told me that this would make it a fairly “cost-free” solution, that doesn’t burden the people who yet another layer of politics.

His case is compelling, and it will probably be the primary type of English devolution that the Tories will push for. It will also be the most popular in terms of backing among the electorate.

That said, I wish that we were looking for a more radical solution. The “Redwood Plan”, (as I’ve just decided to start calling it) will help “federalise” the UK more, but I’d take it much further.

Some are concerned that a totally federalised solution in the UK wouldn’t work, as 85% of the population would live in one of the constituent parts (England) and the remaining 15% in the other three areas (Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland). Gordon Brown made that same point recently.

That could be a valid practical point, but I think it wouldn’t matter so much if we had this solution:

  • The Parliament in Westminster is called the “UK Parliament” with a Prime Minister and Vice Prime-Minister (who we vote for on a national level, counting all our votes up, just like they did with the Scottish referendum). We then also have MPs on a constituency basis, but the whole parliament just concentrates on UK-based decisions, that are dramatically cut, like national defence, international trade and relations, embassies, infrastructure projects of “UK importance”, etc. The MPs are paid a salary that matches the national average full-time wage (about £22,500 at present, plus expenses). The job is effectively not a full-time job, as their responsibilities are dramatically cut.
  • This dramatic cut in power and cost in the UK parliament is used to create (hopefully almost revenue-neutral) four parliaments in the UK: One in Scotland (which already exists), one in Northern Ireland (again, we’re almost there with that), Wales (upgrading the Welsh Assembly) and a new English Parliament (maybe set up in the middle of the country in Manchester? Or London if that’s more practical and economically viable).
  • The MPs in each of the four parliaments get to legislate on everything else: income taxes and all other taxes, health, education, infrastructure, policing, etc. They are the source of most government income, and a percentage (say, 10%) from each of the 4 “states” kicks up to the UK government to fund it. This is crucial: all 4 “states” MUST be self-funding. Again, a First Minister and Second Minister (with a constitutionally-recognised order of succession) is voted for separately in state-wide Executive elections, that maybe coincide with the state MP elections, and possibly the UK executive/legislative elections.
  • Power then for many more things goes down to each region, constituency, town/city/parish.

Probably not viable, but much more democratic and accountable. This isn’t my utopian idea, but a practical step towards a “Federal Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” that makes us more prosperous and free.

And of course, some of this is covered in my book TREASON (and other good ideas) which – unsurprisingly during this time of potential UK constitutional upheaval – is making something of a comeback in sales.

Sorry to end the post on a cheap plug, but hey, I’ve got to eat, right? 😉

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Why Libertarians Win. Always.

Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist

Matt Ridley – The Rational Optimist

I’m currently re-reading Matt Ridley’s incredible book, the Rational Optimist. It’s another timely reminder that it’s very good to be a libertarian right now. In fact, being a libertarian has put you on the right side of history and reason since the dawn of mankind.

What’s great for libertarianism, is that in the 100,000 year-or-so history of our breed of hominids, we have been winning the moral and factual argument in the real world. Our brand of reality is actually the real one, not merely the one that we’d like in theory to exist. Conservatives and modern so-called ‘liberals’ (I prefer the term ‘socialist’ or ‘social democrat’ to describe them) cannot – and have never really been able to – say the same thing.

The moment homo sapiens first evolved from their homo dynamicus ancestors, we started to learn the relative value of trade (i.e. I value item A but I value item B a tiny bit more. For you, it’s the other way around, so we trade on mutually beneficial terms). In countless tests, our gorilla, chimp, bonobo and orang-utan cousins can’t pull off the same trick. None of the hominids before us could quite do it either. Our brains were about the same size as our father-species. We were weaker and not necessarily smarter than the neanderthals. But this understanding of trade was what separated us. It’s what made us the sucess we are today.

And on it goes. Everywhere around the world, at an ever faster rate, the human race is living in an increasingly freer, happier, and more beautifully hyphenated and mongrelised world. Almost everything is getting better all the time. Or to state it differently, almost everything is getting more libertarian all the time.

In fact, the only significant area where we seem to be losing the argument, is in the size and scope of the government. In the West, it appears that the unproductive sector is getting increasingly larger relative to the size of the productive sector. But libertarianism, like gravity, is a fact of life. And it will only be a matter of (possibly prolonged) time before this one minor blip in the libertarian road is finally paved over. The size of government will eventually have to come down, just as every aeroplane that has ever taken off has eventually had to land.

The only real question is, will it be an orderly, rational and safe landing, or will it be a “brace for impact” kind of affair?

I hope everybody comes to their senses long before we have to prepare for a bumpy fall to earth.

DH Defends Brown’s Condolence Writing

The Sun newspaper is at war with Gordon Brown at the moment. Well good, if you care about freedom at all and in any way in the UK right now, there’s a lot about Gordon Brown to be upset about.

But on the subject of poor Mrs. Janes and the tragic nature of her sons death, of all people it is Daniel Hannan, the South East England MEP, who hits the nail squarely on the head, in his usual articulate and reasonable way. I couldn’t agree with his sentiments more. He’s one of the most delightfully articulate critics of Gordon Brown and his incompetence, but he also has enough moral fibre to support the PM when he’s being treated unfairly.

Why aren’t there more Daniel Hannan’s in UK politics? I have a sad feeling it’s because the truth doesn’t sit well with the electorate.

And just for fun, if you’ve missed it, (or if you haven’t heard of Daniel before and are deluded enough to think he’s just a Gordon Brown sycophant), here’s the other side of Hannan’s approach to Gordon Brown – one of the most watched UK political YouTube videos ever. And just like with his above blog defending Brown, in this video where he’s criticising him in the European Parliament, he’s spot-on. Enjoy: