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.

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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