Nick Clegg talks to members of the media during a campaign visit to the market place in Selkirk. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Nick Clegg rejects full English votes for English laws

Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, rules out "English votes for English laws" - but backs compromise of an English grand committee to amend legislation. 

When David Cameron made his dramatic pledge this morning to end the right of non-English MPs to vote on English laws he made it clear that he hoped to act on a "cross-party basis" (as the parties have done on further Scottish devolution). But it's already looking as if consensus will prove elusive. 

Those I've spoken to in Labour suggest that the party will not agree to a reform that could leave it unable to pass major legislation, and even a Budget, in government (should it be dependent on Scottish and Welsh MPs for its majority). Although the West Lothian question is a genuine constitutional anomaly, most regard Cameron's move as a nakedly political attempt to tie Labour's hands. 

Shadow Welsh secretary Owen Smith tweeted: "The last thing Scotland needs is a constitutional fix which reduces Scotland's voice at Westminster & strengthens Tories' grip on power." He added: "Farage and Cameron united today in responding to yesterday's decision by seeking to concentrate more power in their hands & at Westminster."

Expect Ed Miliband to instead focus on the need for radical economic change and devolution to city regions to solve the problem of political alienation. 

But it's not just Labour that is distancing itself from Cameron's proposals. Interviewed this morning in Edinburgh, Nick Clegg did not fall into line with the Tories' plans. Rather than pure English votes for English laws, he suggested resurrecting the idea of an English grand committee to amend legislation, as proposed by the government's McKay commission in March 2013. This would mean that UK MPs, including those from Wales and Scotland, would still have the final say. 

Here's the exchange:

Interviewer: "How’s this going to work, this English votes for the English?  Does that mean on certain days some MPs from certain parts of the UK will have to step out of the Chamber?  What’s it going to cover?  Is it going to be tax, health?  There seems to be – as this has raised a lot of issues, which people looking at the House of Commons think, 'Well, how’s that going to work in practice?'"

Nick Clegg: "Well thankfully it’s already been looked at, so this government, the coalition government, we commissioned work for Lord McKay who looked at all of these issues and came up with some very sensible suggestions about how you could ensure that where – as powers are – significant powers on tax, welfare, borrowing – will devolve to Scotland, you could also adjust the procedures of the House of Commons such that decisions that only affect England have a new stage, if you like, in the decision-making process by which English MPs and English MPs only can make their views known. 

"So thankfully a lot of the work has already been done.  I think it’s right, as I’ve said before, as the Prime Minister’s said this morning, that we should try and bring these two things together at the same time; namely massive new devolution of powers to Scotland and adjusting the way in which votes are organised in Westminster."

In addition, Danny Alexander echoed Labour by warning against creating "two different classes of MPs", adding that: "There's no party proposing to take away the voting rights of Scottish MPs - that is not part of the agenda. It's not what's going to happen." 

But the Tories have already signalled that if they fail to achieve cross-party support, they will make English votes for English laws a dividing line at the election. William Hague said this morning: "We have to discuss this with all the other parties. Of course if there is no consensus, well then it is something at the general election, the parties will have to stake out their positions." 

While the issue is not one that animates many voters, the Tories clearly see the potential to weaponise it and to frame themselves as the "English party" and Labour as the "anti-English party". 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The Tory-DUP deal has left Scotland and Wales seething

It is quite something to threaten the Northern Irish peace process and set the various nations of the UK at loggerheads with merely one act.

Politics in the UK is rarely quite this crude, or this blatant. The deal agreed between the Conservatives and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has – finally – been delivered. But both the deal and much of the opposition to it come with barely even the pretence of principled behaviour.

The Conservatives are looking to shore up their parliamentary and broader political position after a nightmare month. The DUP deal gives the Tories some parliamentary security, and some political breathing space. It is not yet clear what they as a party will do with this – whether, for instance, there will be an attempt to seek new leadership for the party now that the immediate parliamentary position has been secured.

But while some stability has been achieved, the deal does not provide the Tories with much additional strength. Indeed, the DUP deal emphasises their weakness. To finalise the agreement the government has had to throw money at Northern Ireland and align with a deeply socially conservative political force. At a stroke, the last of what remained of the entire Cameron project – the Conservative’s rebuilt reputation as the better party for the economy and fiscal stability, and their development as a much more socially inclusive and liberal party – has been thrown overboard.

Read more: Theresa May's magic money tree is growing in Northern Ireland

For the DUP, the reasoning behind the deal is as obvious as it is for the Conservatives. The DUP has maximised the leverage that the parliamentary arithmetic gives it. As a socially conservative and unionist party, it has absolutely no wish to see Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. But it has kept the Conservatives waiting, and used the current position to get as good a deal as possible. Why should we expect it to do anything else? Still, it is hardly seemly for votes to be bought quite so blatantly.

The politics behind much of the criticism of the deal has been equally obvious. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones – representing not only the Labour party, but also a nation whose relative needs are at least as great as those of the six counties – abandoned his normally restrained tone to describe the deal as a "bung" for Northern Ireland. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was also sharply critical of the deal’s lack of concern for financial fairness across the UK. In doing so, she rather blithely ignored the fact that the Barnett Formula, out of which Scotland has long done rather well, never had much to do with fairness anyway. But we could hardly expect the Scottish National Party First Minister to do anything but criticise both the Conservatives and the current functioning of the UK.

Beyond the depressingly predictable short-term politics, the long-term consequences of the Tory-DUP deal are much less foreseeable. It is quite something to threaten the integrity of the Northern Irish peace process and set the various nations of the UK at loggerheads with merely one act. Perhaps everything will work out OK. But it is concerning that, for the current government, short-term political survival appears all-important, even at potential cost to the long-term stability and integrity of the state.

But one thing is clear. The political unity of the UK is breaking down. British party politics is in retreat, possibly even existential decay. This not to say that political parties as a whole are in decline. But the political ties that bind across the UK are.

The DUP deal comes after the second general election in a row where four different parties have come first in the four nations of the UK, something which had never happened before 2015. But perhaps even more significantly, the 2017 election was one where the campaigns across the four nations were perhaps less connected than ever before.

Of course, Northern Ireland’s party and electoral politics have long been largely separate from those on the mainland. But Ulster Unionist MPs long took the Tory whip at Westminster. Even after that practice ceased in the 1970s, some vestigial links between the parties remained, while there were also loose ties between the Social Democratic and Labour Party and Labour. But in 2017, both these Northern Irish parties had their last Commons representation eliminated.

In Scotland, 2017 saw the SNP lose some ground; the main unionist parties are, it seems, back in the game. But even to stage their partial comeback, the unionist parties had to fight – albeit with some success – on the SNP’s turf, focusing the general election campaign in Scotland heavily around the issue of a potential second independence referendum.

Even in Wales, Labour’s 26th successive general election victory was achieved in a very different way to the previous 25. The party campaigned almost exclusively as Welsh Labour. The main face and voice of the campaign was Carwyn Jones, with Jeremy Corbyn almost invisible in official campaign materials. Immediately post-election, Conservatives responded to their failure by calling for the creation of a clear Welsh Conservative leader.

Read more: Did Carwyn Jones win Wales for Labour  - or Jeremy Corbyn?

Yet these four increasingly separate political arenas still exist within one state. The UK was always an odd entity: what James Mitchell astutely termed a "state of unions", with the minority nations grafted on in distinct and even contradictory ways to the English core. The politics of the four nations are drifting apart, yet circumstances will still sometimes mean that they have to intersect. In the current instance, the parliamentary arithmetic means the Tories having to work with a party that celebrates a form of "Britishness" viewed increasingly with baffled incomprehension, if not outright revulsion, by the majority of Conservatives, even, on the British mainland. In turn, the Tories and other parties, as well as the news-media, are having to deal with sudden relevance of a party whose concerns and traditions they understand very little of.

Expect more of this incomprehension, not less, in the post-2017 general election world. 

Roger Scully is Professor of Political Science in the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University.

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