Labour must reconnect with English identity and avoid 'West Lothian' rebellion, Ed Miliband told

Several  Labour MPs from English constituencies fear the party will suffer a backlash at next May’s general election if it does not agree to dilute the voting power of Scottish MPs at Westminster

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Ed Miliband faces a growing Labour rebellion against his opposition to David Cameron’s plan to bring in “English votes for English laws.”

Several  Labour MPs from English constituencies fear the party will suffer a backlash from the public at next May’s general election if it does not agree to dilute the voting power of Scottish MPs at Westminster. The Labour leadership fears this could cripple a future Labour government. It could fail to get its laws approved by the Commons without its  large block of MPs from Scotland, where it won 41 of the 59 seats at the 2010 election.

Mr Miliband on Sunday refused to budge, telling the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: "There isn't a simple answer to this question ... we have been wrestling with this issue for 120 years, ever since we were talking about Irish home rule…..We can't do it in a back of the envelope, fag packet way. We spent two years trying to keep our country together - let's have a proper constitutional convention, let's look at these issues.”

The Labour leader was open to the idea “of greater scrutiny of legislation by English MPs”,  which could be achieved by setting up a Grand Committee. But that would still allow Scottish MPs to vote on laws affecting England only in the Commons chamber.

 

Kate Hoey, a Labour MP and former Sports Minister, said Labour must do the right thing for the country even if that disadvantaged the party in the short-term.  She said: “It’s never been fair since devolution, that English MPs have no say in what’s happening in Scotland’s health service and education, but Scottish MPs have a say on ours. I’m very clear that the right thing to do is that Scottish MPs should not be able to vote on those big issues that are affecting England only.”

She said several Labour MPs shared her view but would not speak out until after this week’s Labour conference. Critics of Mr Miliband’s line are said to include some members of his Shadow Cabinet.

Mr Hoey warned that Mr Miliband’s plans for a constitutional convention after the general election would “look like it’s just putting it all into the long grass and we don’t really care about England. We must not have this idea that Labour doesn’t care about England.” A former Downing Street adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown urged Mr Miliband to embrace reforms for England urgently and use his Labour conference on Tuesday to show he can be leader of a United Kingdom. Writing on The Independent’s website, Patrick Diamond said: “Miliband must demonstrate he can decisively address the ‘English question’ posed by the further transfer of competencies to Scotland. Miliband urgently needs to re-connect Labour with the burgeoning sense of English identity.”

He added: “Polls indicate Miliband is still not taken seriously as a prospective Prime Minister. And to win, he needs not just to rally Labour supporters but to build confidence in his party's prospectus among the non-committed 'swing' voters who determine British elections. In the run up to May 2015, voters want a conversation not a monologue: trust in government means being up front with citizens about the scale of the challenges ahead.”

John Denham, Mr Miliband’s former parliamentary aide, said “the English question must be settled” along with Scotland’s extra powers and questioned the Labour leader’s call for the two issues to be handled at different speeds. Writing on the LabourList website, Mr Denham said: “Settling the English question cannot be on a different timetable to the delivery of enhanced powers for the Scottish Parliament. It may not be possible to do this in the same piece of legislation but the implementation of new decision-making arrangements should be across the UK.”

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