Tom Dayell, (1932-2017), was a controversial figure who lived a tumultuous personal and political life. Among his varied achievements and embarrassments he should be remembered for being the person who posed the West Lothian question, which prepared the way for the 2015 legislation on English votes for English laws, [or EVEL to give it its slightly sinister-sounding acronym.]
I leave others more informed that I am to offer a formal obituary on ‘Daft Tam’ . The BBC offers a thoughtful account.
I will restrict this post to a few thoughts on his much-discussed conundrum, and its connection to EVEL. I make no attempt to hide my view that both are distractions from the needs from a political process of reconciling the rights of minorities within a wider union, be it the EU or the United Kingdom in their present forms.
The West Lothian question
In a parliamentary debate on devolution in 1977, Dalyell first proposed what would become known as the West Lothian Question.
A vocal opponent of Scottish devolution, Dalyell contrasted the town of Blackburn in his own constituency, and Blackburn in Lancashire.
“For how long,” he asked, “will English constituencies and English Honourable Members tolerate at least 119 Honourable Members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland exercising an important and often decisive effect on English politics?”
It was Enoch Powell who coined the term West Lothian Question, in his response to Dalyell’s speech.
The Guardian, at its socially-sensitive best, had a decent stab at resolving the question.
EVEL is one of the signals of a paranoid streak in politics which manifest from time to time. It is a near-pointless effort to protect English interests against their disruption by pesky minority interests of other members of the United Kingdom. It deserves approval only by the rabid supporters on the now defunct English National Party, although I suspect it has the dubious merits of appealing to British Nationalists, and for all I know to the arguments whirling around in the head of Douglas Carswell, the only UKIP member of parliament at present.
The flow chart of the process of implanting EVEL makes a wondrous, if Alice through the looking glass, wall chart.
Today at PM Questions [February 1st 2017] all sides of the house paid homage to the man who lived up to his quote: You must not be afraid to be thought a bore
Anyone who wants to explain how you should have voted in the EU referendum deserves quizzing on how they understand EVEL, and Dalyell’s brain-numbing question.