Sunday, May 10, 2015

The man Tories fear most also wants a more federal Britain

The goal of equal freedom will have to wait in the UK, but perhaps the goal of a better federalism supported by the Labour Party is closer than expected. Today, the MP Chuka Umunna, whom Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times described as "the man Tories fear most," has said in the BBC program “Andrew Marr Show” (I can watch it again in Barcelona now!) that he is in favour of more federalism in the Isles. Marr himself, a Scottish journalist, seemed very keen on federalism, as he insisted on the idea to several of his guests (and nobody, including Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP and David Davies of the Tories, rejected the idea).
I am not sure that a return to New Labour is the response to the defeat last Thursday. Will a turn to the centre restore the faith of voters who have chosen nationalist parties such as UKIP and the SNP in working class districts? In centre left parties there are always more moderate and more radical components, and in modern societies the most logical outcome is a permanently negotiated balance between the different factions. I don’t think that will substantially change in the UK. But what Labour needs desperately is to openly discuss an institutional project that gives coherence to the internal arrangements between nations in the UK and to its relationship with the European Union. Chuka Umunna, perhaps the British Obama, seems to agree. So do intellectuals and journalists of the calibre of Timothy Garton Ash (as well as Will Hutton or Phil Stephens), who has made a number of proposals towards a “Federal Kingdom” to conclude that “All this is inseparable from the matter of Europe. After all, the essential British argument over the EU is about who does what at what level. That’s what people will be looking at in the probably paltry results of Cameron’s self-styled renegotiation with Brussels. But another word for such multi-layered arrangements is, precisely, federalism.”

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