This week's Spectator is dedicated to the creation of a politically 'Independent' England. There is a thread of assumption flowing through the Speccie's pages that there will be a House of Commons Conservative majority representing English seats after the next General Election, even if the Party does not win an overall majority. The astute Fraser Nelson concludes that in such an event, flames of English resentment would be stoked up. From here on, the consequences of the conflagration are impossible to predict with any certainty. Imagine. A Labour Government ruling England (where there's a Conservative majority), led by a Scot, sustained by the votes of Labour MPs from Scotland and Wales - while the Scots and the Welsh have their own Parliaments to deal with the same issues. And don't forget Alex Salmond, the most cunning of manoeuverers, siting astride his 'nationalist' steed in Edinburgh, tossing canisters of high octane fuel over Hadrian's Wall onto the already inflamed passions rising up in the breast of 'middle England'. Does this sound to you like a recipe for constitutional turbulence? It does to me. The Speccie sees a 'coming together' of increasingly noisy demands for the Scots to be given their 'freedom', and a growing enthusiasm by the English to give it to them. But the subject of this post is not about what to what I'll refer to as 'Hadrian's Divide'. Its about what happens in Wales.
Wales and Scotland are not the same. Even Fraser Nelson gets it wrong. He writes that 'the Welsh electorate has decided more or less to expel the Tory Party from its borders'. Er, No it hasn't. The first-past-the-post system may have delivered just 3 Tory MPs (out of 40) in the current Parliament, whereas a PR system would have delivered 9. In last year's National Assembly election, the Conservatives won 12 seats (out of 60), missing several others by a whisker. And the proportion of Welsh voters who want to leave the Union is put by opinion polls at a consistant 15%-20%.
Wales does not want separation from England. There is an ongoing debate about exactly what sort of relationship is most appropriate between the two nations. Nothing new there, and nothing wrong with that. Personally, I feel with a passion that the current contract is flawed and constitutionally unstable, to the extent of it being a threat to the ancient family bond. If an emerging adult is not given freedom to take an adult's decisions, there will eventually follow a blazing row, a suitcase packed, a door slammed and a loving relationship broken forever. Now it may well be that the Scottish youngster and the English parent are heading for a mutually desired split. But lets not suppose that a similar divide should follow the line of Offa's Dyke. Wales does not want it. Wales wants to grow up, flex her muscles, stand on her own feet - but we do not want to move out, or become 'Independent'. At least, not many of us do.