UK Government must roll back devolution in a way the public don’t notice, Conservative editor says
The UK Government must be “smarter” about the way it rolls back devolution “without the public perceiving” what it is doing, an editor at a prominent Conservative website has said.
Henry Hill, the deputy editor of the Conservative Home website, said that if the public noticed a “head on ‘assault on devolution'” that “might actually spur a wave of sympathy for the administrations in Holyrood and Cardiff Bay”.
Referring to comments by Lord David Frost in which the House of Lords peer called for the Government to resume overall control of the UK’s response to crises such as the pandemic, Henry Hill notes that there was “was no public backlash when the Government passed the UK Internal Market Act” which was described by the Welsh Government as a “power grab” of devolved autonomy.
“Voters are not nearly as invested in the prerogatives of the devocrat class as that class would like people to believe,” Henry Hill wrote.
“This means there is a lot of scope for the Government to pick and win lots of important battles on constitutional detail, such as control of the census, without the public perceiving the sort of head-on ‘assault on devolution’ that might actually spur a wave of sympathy for the administrations in Holyrood and Cardiff Bay.
“Unfortunately, according to Whitehall sources senior people setting the Government’s pro-Union strategy are transfixed by polling which shows voters prefer, in the abstract, cooperation between Westminster and the devolved administrations rather than confrontation.”
He finishes by saying: “Ministers need to be smarter than that. Headline ‘people prefer nice things to nasty things’ polling must always be weighed against how likely voters are to care about, or even notice, a particular detailed issue.
“The alternative is letting the devocrats, always ready to be outraged, lead the constitution by the nose.”
Ex-Brexit minister David Frost has said that Boris Johnson needs to “unite the United Kingdom” to save his job as Prime Minister.
Writing in the Telegraph, Baron Frost, who sits in the House of Lords, said that the pandemic had shown that it was “nonsense” having different rules in different parts of the UK.
He said that the step was necessary to “save Boris, the Conservative Party and the country”.
“First, we must rebuild the UK nation-state as a collective endeavour for everyone within it,” he said.
“The democratic nation-state is the best way human beings have found to create political community and loyalty, to facilitate solidarity, and to make people feel part of something bigger.
“A country with self-respect cannot have its laws set by others. We must therefore finish the business of re-establishing our sovereignty in Northern Ireland – step by step, if necessary, but with no doubt about the final goal.
“We should put an end to ‘devolve and forget’ in Scotland and Wales. Local decision-making is fine, but it should come within a sensible national framework. The pandemic made clear the nonsense of having four different travel and public health policies.”
Lord Frost added that not all had gone badly for Boris Johnson’s government, as it had focused on rebuilding the UK’s national identity and sovereignty.
“Admittedly, it has two huge achievements to its credit: getting us out of the EU, and delivering an exit from the pandemic without the coercive measures we have seen elsewhere,” he said.
“Merry England is one of the freest countries in the world.
He added that: “People do care about their country and their communities. They don’t think that the outcomes of free markets are the only things that matter. They know that, in a dangerous world, we can’t be indifferent to where economic activity is and who owns it.
“It is the way of the globalisers – those who were quite happy to offshore business to China, who favour unlimited migration, who don’t think that national identity and history much matter, and who think economic and political judgments are better made by international institutions than by national democracies.
“In a classic case of Orwell’s ‘transferred nationalism’, some make up for the psychological void left by their lack of belief in national identity by a fixation with identity politics – an obsession which, if taken to extremes, risks destroying the cohesion and sense of fairness that democracies need to survive.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.