Liz Kendall has urged Labour to do a U-turn by embracing “English votes for English laws” even though the move is opposed by many of the party’s MPs.
The Blairite candidate in Labour’s leadership race parted company with her three rivals after Labour condemned the Conservatives’ plans to give English MPs a veto over legislation affecting only England. The Opposition will vote against the proposals, which will be fast-tracked through Parliament this month.
Ms Kendall said: “It is time for the Labour Party to stop swimming against the tide and back the idea that English voters should have the right to determine things that solely affect England.”
The Shadow Care Minister added: “Over the next five years, there’s going to much greater devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There must be a stronger voice for England too.”
However, Ms Kendall warned that the Tories were “deluded” if they thought that “English votes for English laws” or an English Parliament were a “magic bullet that will stop people feeling fed up with politicians and the way they are governed”. She added: “We need to get power out of Westminster and down to our cities, towns and counties.”
Ms Kendall believes that Labour can no longer win the argument against reforming the way genuinely English-only laws are passed when so much power is being devolved in England and Wales. She wants her party to embrace the principle and be proud of “English identity” so that it can do battle with the Tories on the detail of their proposals.
Angela Eagle, the shadow Leader of the Commons, said the Tory plan “smacks of a cynical attempt by a government with an overall majority of just 12 to use procedural trickery to manufacture itself a very much larger one”. She warned: “It’s more than that – it’s reckless and dangerous. It’s playing with fire and threatening not only the constitutional integrity of our Parliament but the future of our Union.”
Other leadership candidates back Labour’s official line, which is to call for a constitutional convention. Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, believes that David Cameron has stoked the cause of separatism for his own narrow political ends. He argues that Labour believes the historic Union working together for the common good. But he accepts that people across the UK want more say over the Government and more control over their lives, and recognises that the Union needs to evolve rather than stand still.
Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, believes that changes are needed but is “not a fan” of the Government’s plans. She wants the issue addressed by a convention rather than rushed through in a divisive way.
Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing standard bearer, said: “We need a constitutional convention to look at different powers between regions and nations, and an elected second chamber, the voting age and voting systems. The current situation is messy and uneven, and we need to look at these things together with wide consultation.”
Ms Kendall dubbed Mr Burnham and Ms Cooper as “continuity Miliband” candidates.
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