The curious incident of the Conservative leadership hopeful and English votes for English laws in the night time.
Another curious incident that has come as part of the fallout of Brexit is the race to become leader of the Conservative party and the next Prime Minister of the (for the moment) United Kingdom. One of the earliest Conservative MPs to throw their hat into the ring for the top job is none other than Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb. This post will attempt to see whether awkward position constitutionally that English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) has created for Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs can be reconciled with one Welsh MP’s desire for the top job in British politics.
During the debates on EVEL, SNP MP Pete Wishart declared;
“because they would be debarred from full voting entitlements on getting legislation through the House. I do not foresee there ever again being a Scottish, Welsh or possibly Northern Irish Minister in one of the great devolved Departments of state.”
And there has certainly been a number of Prime Ministers whether being Welsh or Scottish themselves have represented constituencies in Wales or Scotland, Lloyd George, Gordon Brown, James Callaghan, Gladstone, Winston Churchill to name but a few, yet they did not do so in the time of EVEL. Now Stephen Crabb, although the living embodiment of the Union, a self-declared Welshman, born in Scotland and university educated in England, is still a Welsh MP. And although he is the current Secretary of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, he is also a former Secretary of State for Wales and an MP who voted for EVEL. As such he should be well placed to understand that if selected by his peers in the Conservative party and subsequently elected to the top job by that party’s members, he would be unable to vote on a number of manifesto pledges which affects his party’s largest vote base, England. Now, although it is not the purpose of this post to analyse whether Crabb is the best person for the job, it must be highlighted that for Conservative members to elect Mr Crabb may create some issues down the line. If it had been a Crabb administration that had to vote on the academisation of schools in England, or junior Doctors’ contracts in the English NHS, his party would not be able to count on his vote for support. This could mean a slim Conservative majority becoming even slimmer in the face of difficult and potentially unpopular legislation.
An additional concern is raised when considering how a Welsh PM would translate to English voters, especially if they were aware of Crabb’s inability to vote on matters that effected their schools and hospitals. If another general election is called to re-enforce Crabb’s mandate to govern, as it seems likely it will, are English voters going to back a Welsh MP who cannot adequately reflect their views?
This is of course all hypothetical at the moment, as the deadline for nominations for Conservative leader are yet to pass at time of writing and many more big hitters may enter the fray. Mr Crabb is also an outsider at the offset, with Sky bet giving odds of 7/1 to the DWP man. (Other reputable and non-reputable betting agents are available). However, Conservative leadership contests seem to favour the outsider, who would have predicted that David Cameron would win as he did in 2005? So if Stephen Crabb is elected Conservative leader and Prime Minister, how will he sidestep EVEL and effectively govern and manage his party and their manifesto promises