'The difficulty is England. The difficulty has always been England. England is so much bigger When 85% of the population live in one of its constituent parts, and the remaining 15% are spread between three others, it is confoundingly hard to construct a balanced federalism. Most of England has not expressed a great deal of interest in devolution, which means few of its politicians have done any serious thinking about it. For sure, there are plenty of the English who will nod along with the complaint that “too much power is concentrated at Westminster”, and they are more likely to share that complaint the more distant they are from London SW7.
It is also true that the English, no less than the Scots, are highly receptive to attacks on the “Westminster elite”. Yet that has never translated into an enthusiastic embrace of devolution – at least not in any of the forms that have been offered to the English. The last Labour government thought the answer might be regional assemblies. The north east was offered one in a referendum and rejected it. Police commissioners were invented by the current government with the admirable motive of making constabularies accountable to their local communities. Hardly anyone bothered to turn out to cast a vote. Tony Blair, borrowing from America, reckoned that local government could be revived through elected mayors. David Cameron has thought so too. Londoners like having a mayor. Whatever they think of the particular individual who holds the office at any one time, they have warmed to an idea that they were initially cool about. But the rest of England remains sniffy. In the most recent referendums on creating more mayors, they were rejected in nine out of 10 places that they were offered, including Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city.’
It will not have escaped your notice – it certainly has not escaped the notice of either Labour or the Tories – that the next election looks like it will be extremely tight. We could end up with a parliament in which there is a Labour government with a parliamentary majority on foreign affairs and defence, but not for any legislation covering a host of domestic issues in England. A Labour health secretary would be rendered utterly impotent, with no power over the NHS in devolved Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and no ability to pass law concerning health in England either.’
USA style deadlock!!