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Tories should team up with Gordon Brown to ‘save’ the UK, says New Statesman columnist

08 Jan 2021 3 minutes Read
Gordon Brown. Picture by World Economic Forum (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The Tories should enlist the help of Gordon Brown to “save” the UK, according to a New Statesman columnist.

Chris Deerin argued in the left-wing London-based magazine, that even though the Conservatives are in power, the former Labour Prime Minister would be better placed to lead the UK’s constitutional change.

Mr Brown, who recently remarked that there was “rising dissent” in Wales, has been asked by Labour’s leader in Westminster, Keir Starmer, to draw up a plan for a federal UK.

Mr Deerin said that there was “little confidence” that Boris Johnson would act in “good faith” on the issue, because he had described devolution as a “disaster”.

He suggested that teaming up with Mr Brown would put Westminster in a position to be able to offer “a big, open and comprehensive offer” to Wales, Scotland, England, and Northern Ireland because it would “spread the burden beyond party lines.”

Mr Deerin said: “If Unionists want the UK to stay together, it’s time to get serious.”

“The truth is that, even though the Conservatives are in power, it is Labour to whom Scots are more likely to look for leadership on UK constitutional change.

“Boris Johnson’s subterranean polling levels in Scotland, and the perceived English bias of his party, mean there is little confidence in the PM or acceptance that he is likely to act in good faith.

“His recent comment dismissing devolution as a ‘disaster’ and this week’s claim that without Westminster Scotland would have failed to access the Covid-19 vaccine, have been ill-judged and inflammatory.

“Michael Gove, who is leading the UK government’s work in the constitutional area, may be a Scot but these days is regarded as a creature of Westminster Conservatism: an English MP and minister who is at home in the Old Etonian social scene and who has made his name reforming England’s schools and England’s prisons.”

 

‘Cross-party’ 

He added: “Brown would seem more than capable of doing the intellectual heavy-lifting, but the Conservatives, even in these toughest of times, have shown little inclination towards even the faintest hint of a cross-party, all-hands-to-the-pump national effort.

“Imagine that Johnson asked Brown to chair a national effort to redesign the UK – to bring greater democratic and economic identity to England’s towns and cities, to blow up the Lords and replace it with a modern, regionally representative institution, to give Scotland its head (and greater responsibility for facing the consequences of its policy decisions).

“In narrow political terms, this would give the PM a legitimate reason to delay a second independence referendum for a few years, as the proposal was researched, drafted and consulted upon.

“It would spread the burden beyond party lines, and suggest the UK is still capable of coming together to fix its problems, that some solidarity is still to be found.

“To quote one of Johnson’s predecessors, Westminster should get itself in a position to make ‘a big, open and comprehensive offer’ to Britons – Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish.

“This would be better done as one, and with passion, heart and commitment at its core. Retooling this dangerously frangible nation is probably the only way to save it.”

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