I think it’s quite simple, they don’t understand that in bringing devolution to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London they’ve walked towards federalism – and that means giving power back from the centre, and sorting out the union. Something Labour seem terrified by.
Why did Labour lose in Scotland last year? Simple, they didn’t back extra powers for the parliament – if they had they’d have easily dealt with the growth in SNP support. But Brown said no. And yet now they’re on the back foot and scrambling to get Calman and co. to come up with a package of changes in powers to the settlement before the end of the year.
Why did Ken lose in London this week? Simple, Brown stood up to Ken and refused to let him run the tube his way. This stalled the modernisation programme, wasted billions, caused and nearly caused a dozen strikes, massively inconveniencing Londoners. On top of this, the vote has been really poor in the outer suburbs where the Department for Transport must take the blame for failing to act quickly enough on Ken’s requirements to roll out Oyster on suburban rail and ensure that suburban rail in London came up to the standards of the tube. Poor Ken had no option and no power to sort these issues. Neither will Boris, and it will be interesting to see if anyone suggests reform to the London settlement. It certainly needs something but no-one seems to have any ideas, a good start would be somehow getting the London Assembly noticed – to the average Londoner it doesn’t exist.
In both of these cases, had the understanding been there that devolution was a process not an event then people would not have wound up voting in local oppositions to central government in the fashion they now have. Further, the strange fascination with having a mayor has led to a somewhat pointless popularity contest. Were the mayor chosen by the assembly it is plausible that Ken could have still remained in power, Boris would have needed the vote of the BNP member and one other…
What I can’t explain is why with an increased turnout the BNP still got 5% of the London vote and a seat on the assembly. I can cope with Boris being mayor, but it really sickens me to know that some of my tax will pay salary to such a politician.