William Hague will lay out his EVEL plans today. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

What is English votes for English laws?

English MPs would be given a veto over laws that apply only in England, under plans William Hague is putting forward.

The Conservatives are proposing a plan for English votes for English laws (EVEL) today. They have come up with a response to the so-called English question following the promise of further devolution to Scotland triggered by the independence referendum.

The Leader of the House of Commons, William Hague, will lay out his party's preferred solution to the problem today, having outlined a number of different options at the end of last year.

Under the Tories' proposal:

 - English MPs would be given a veto over legislation that applies only in England, including setting income tax rates (because income tax raising powers are being devolved fully to Holyrood under the Smith Commission's recommendations).

 - MPs from other parts of the UK, outside of England, would still be able to debate laws that apply solely in England, as a Commons majority would still be required for any bill to pass.

 - The committee stage of putting a bill together, when detailed line-by-line scrutiny takes place, would be restricted solely to those MPs who represent English constituencies.

 - English MPs would also be given a veto, in Hague's words, "to prevent the wishes of the English or English and Welsh being overridden by Scottish MPs".

Hague summed up his plan to the BBC's Today programme this morning by explaining, "the decisive say would be given to English MPs over measures that only affect England while maintaining the unity of parliament as a whole".

He admitted that, because of preserving the ability of the Commons to vote bills out, then legislation put together solely by MPs from England "could still be rejected by the House of Commons as a whole". He asserted that sticking to all MPs voting is vital to maintaining the "integrity" of parliament representing the United Kingdom as a whole.

The theoretical outcome of Hague's plan that English laws could be defeated by representatives from elsewhere in the UK will rile many English MPs, mainly Tory backbenchers, who believe English MPs should have an all-out say over English-only policy. They would prefer a purer plan closer to the slogan "English votes for English laws". Hague, however, insists his plan is the "best solution" and is true to the slogan.

Labour will also have its reservations with this plan. Ed Miliband has called for a cross-party constitutional convention to consider the problem after the general election, and to avoid falling into a Tory-induced "Westminster stitch-up" on the issue. Labour has a lot more to lose than the Tories, who only have one Scottish MP, from a weakening of the powers of MPs representing seats outside of England. Yet the party has in the past suggested a greater role for English MPs at the committee stage of a bill, similar to Hague's proposal this week.

The Lib Dems, in contrast, are calling for a "grand committee" of English MPs, which has the right to veto legislation applying only to England, with its membership based on proportional representation.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

No, the battle in Momentum isn't about young against old

Jon Lansman and his allies' narrative doesn't add up, argues Rida Vaquas.

If you examined the recent coverage around Momentum, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was headed towards an acrimonious split, judging by the vitriol, paranoia and lurid accusations that have appeared online in the last couple days. You’d also be forgiven for thinking that this divide was between a Trotskyist old guard who can’t countenance new ways of working, and hip youngsters who are filled with idealism and better at memes. You might then be incredibly bemused as to how the Trotskyists Momentum was keen to deny existed over the summer have suddenly come to the brink of launching a ‘takeover bid’.

However these accounts, whatever intentions or frustrations that they are driven by, largely misrepresent the dispute within Momentum and what transpired at the now infamous National Committee meeting last Saturday.

In the first instance, ‘young people’ are by no means universally on the side of e-democracy as embodied by the MxV online platform, nor did all young people at the National Committee vote for Jon Lansman’s proposal which would make this platform the essential method of deciding Momentum policy.

Being on National Committee as the representative from Red Labour, I spoke in favour of a conference with delegates from local groups, believing this is the best way to ensure local groups are at the forefront of what we do as an organisation.

I was nineteen years old then. Unfortunately speaking and voting in favour of a delegates based conference has morphed me into a Trotskyist sectarian from the 1970s, aging me by over thirty years.

Moreover I was by no means the only young person in favour of this, Josie Runswick (LGBT+ representative) and the Scottish delegates Martyn Cook and Lauren Gilmour are all under thirty and all voted for a delegates based national conference. I say this to highlight that the caricature of an intergenerational war between the old and the new is precisely that: a caricature bearing little relation to a much more nuanced reality.

Furthermore, I believe that many people who voted for a delegates-based conference would be rather astounded to find themselves described as Trotskyists. I do not deny that there are Trotskyists on National Committee, nor do I deny that Trotskyists supported a delegates-based conference – that is an open position of theirs. What I do object is a characterisation of the 32 delegates who voted for a delegates-based conference as Trotskyists, or at best, gullible fools who’ve been taken in.  Many regional delegates were mandated by the people to whom they are accountable to support a national conference based on this democratic model, following broad and free political discussion within their regions. As thrilling as it might be to fantasise about a sinister plot driven by the shadow emperors of the hard Left against all that it is sensible and moderate in Momentum, the truth is rather more mundane. Jon Lansman and his supporters failed to convince people in local groups of the merits of his e-democracy proposal, and as a result lost the vote.

I do not think that Momentum is doomed to fail on account of the particular details of our internal structures, providing that there is democracy, accountability and grassroots participation embedded into it. I do not think Momentum is doomed to fail the moment Jon Lansman, however much respect I have for him, loses a vote. I do not even think Momentum is doomed to fail if Trotskyists are involved, or even win sometimes, if they make their case openly and convince others of their ideas in the structures available.

The existential threat that Momentum faces is none of these things, it is the propagation of a toxic and polarised political culture based on cliques and personal loyalties as opposed to genuine political discussion on how we can transform labour movement and transform society. It is a political culture in which those opposed to you in the organisation are treated as alien invaders hell-bent on destroying it, even when we’ve worked together to build it up, and we worked together before the Corbyn moment even happened. It is a political culture where members drag others through the mud, using the rhetoric of the Right that’s been used to attack all of us, on social and national media and lend their tacit support to witch hunts that saw thousands of Labour members and supporters barred from voting in the summer. It is ultimately a political culture in which our trust in each other and capacity to work together on is irreparably eroded.

We have a tremendous task facing us: to fight for a socialist alternative in a global context where far right populism is rapidly accruing victories; to fight for the Labour Party to win governmental power; to fight for a world in which working class people have the power to collectively change their lives and change the societies we live in. In short: there is an urgent need to get our act together. This will not be accomplished by sniping about ‘saboteurs’ but by debating the kind of politics we want clearly and openly, and then coming together to campaign from a grassroots level upwards.

Rida Vaquas is Red Labour Representative on Momentum National Committee.