Has Ed Miliband gone far enough in his devolution promise? Photo: Getty
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Ed Miliband’s Constitutional Convention: is he letting a crisis go to waste?

The Labour leader has responded to David Cameron’s ideas for constitutional change with a plan of his own. But does it go far enough?

Ed Miliband has responded to the Prime Minister’s post-referendum speech with his own plan for a constitutional shake-up. While David Cameron’s proposal for English votes for English laws was expected, as I predicted at 3am this morning, what the opposition’s would be was less clear-cut.

It’s a tough situation for Miliband, whose party – which could be governing in 2015 – has far more Scottish seats than the Tories’ one representative over the border. This makes the West Lothian Question a particular pain for the Labour party, who could end up being in charge of Britain, but significantly weakened when it comes to voting through their own legislation.

To add to the pressure, Miliband and key members of his team, such as the policy review chief Jon Cruddas MP, have been proposing that powers be further devolved to the regions for some time. For example, Miliband gave a big speech in April this year promising “the biggest economic devolution of power to England's great towns and cities in a hundred years”. With devolution now a fraught part of the national conversation, and his party having devolution on its manifesto, Miliband cannot delay nor dilute any of his plans.

So he’s come up with what he calls a “Constitutional Convention” for the UK. This aims to address the need for further devolution in the UK by rooting the debate in its nations and regions. These debates will bring together not only elected representatives, but also ordinary people. As laid out nice and clearly by LabourList, Labour’s plan – which will be set out in the coming weeks – will involve each region in the UK producing a report outlining recommendations, which include:

  • How sub-national devolution can be strengthened
     
  • How the regions can be given more of a voice in our political system
     
  • How we can give further voice to regional and national culture and identity
     

This consultation would then be followed in the autumn of 2015 with the Constitutional Convention itself, which would determine the future of UK-wide devolution.

In a speech following his arrival at Labour party conference in Manchester, Miliband laid out this plan, saying that he didn’t want to use “this moment to be used for narrow party political advantage”.

Opinion among Labour insiders on Miliband’s approach is mixed. One source tells me their view is that it’s “a sensible approach” for Miliband not to go all-out in attacking Cameron, or make hasty plans to rival those of the governing party. “There’s no point being bounced into responding to Cameron when he just looks increasingly desperate,” they tell me.

However, there is also a lack of enthusiasm among some in the party’s ranks, because Miliband hasn’t gone far enough. One source close to his frontbench tells me there’s a definite feeling of “don’t let a good crisis go to waste” among MPs who want further English devolution. From what they’ve heard of this Convention, they don’t see it tackling the huge disaffection there is with Westminster on both sides of the border. This echoes what Tory chairman Grant Shapps says of Miliband's plan: that it "would kick this vital issue into the long grass".

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images/Christopher Furlong
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A dozen defeated parliamentary candidates back Caroline Flint for deputy

Supporters of all the leadership candidates have rallied around Caroline Flint's bid to be deputy leader.

Twelve former parliamentary candidates have backed Caroline Flint's bid to become deputy leader in an open letter to the New Statesman. Dubbing the Don Valley MP a "fantastic campaigner", they explain that why despite backing different candidates for the leadership, they "are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader", who they describe as a "brilliant communicator and creative policy maker". 

Flint welcomed the endorsement, saying: "our candidates know better than most what it takes to win the sort of seats Labour must gain in order to win a general election, so I'm delighted to have their support.". She urged Labour to rebuild "not by lookin to the past, but by learning from the past", saying that "we must rediscover Labour's voice, especially in communities wher we do not have a Labour MP:".

The Flint campaign will hope that the endorsement provides a boost as the campaign enters its final days.

The full letter is below:

There is no route to Downing Street that does not run through the seats we fought for Labour at the General Election.

"We need a new leadership team that can win back Labour's lost voters.

Although we are backing different candidates to be Leader, we are united in supporting Caroline Flint to be Labour's next deputy leader.

Not only is Caroline a fantastic campaigner, who toured the country supporting Labour's candidates, she's also a brilliant communicator and creative policy maker, which is exactly what we need in our next deputy leader.

If Labour is to win the next election, it is vital that we pick a leadership team that doesn't just appeal to Labour Party members, but is capable of winning the General Election. Caroline Flint is our best hope of beating the Tories.

We urge Labour Party members and supporters to unite behind Caroline Flint and begin the process of rebuilding to win in 2020.

Jessica Asato (Norwich North), Will Straw (Rossendale and Darween), Nick Bent (Warrington South), Mike Le Surf (South Basildon and East Thurrock), Tris Osborne (Chatham and Aylesford), Victoria Groulef (Reading West), Jamie Hanley (Pudsey), Kevin McKeever (Northampton South), Joy Squires (Worcester), Paul Clark (Gillingham and Rainham), Patrick Hall (Bedford) and Mary Wimbury (Aberconwy)

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.