Yes or No, the referendum can bring the change we all need


We’re going to be in a new world on Friday. We can’t go back to the way things used to work. Whether the result is Yes or No, change is coming and it has the potential to be the best thing to happen to politics for a long time.

We have a state that is too centralised and too distant from the people. We have a Labour party that has lost touch with many of the people who have traditionally supported it. We have a Conservative party that barely exists in vast swathes of the country, most obviously Scotland. The same forces that are driving Labour and Conservative voters to UKIP are the ones that are driving former Labour voters in Scotland towards independence from Westminster.

Representatives are too far away from those being represented.

UK centralised power London devolution

Labour has played its part in this by allowing itself to be devoured by the Westminster machine. But Labour’s folly can have an upside. It is through this referendum that we now have a chance for real devolution of power.

It’s a running joke that any time a political party promises to give power to the people they forget to do so when they get into 10 Downing Street.

It was a particularly funny joke when Gordon Brown was Prime Minister. It’s heartening that now he has no power he finds it so easy to give away. Doing so in such a slap dash way, with the consent of party leaders but without consulting any voters in the rest of the UK, was disgraceful – but it has inadvertently unleashed forces for good.

The referendum and the establishment’s panicked response is a shock to the system that will bring about what is needed – devolution across the UK. When the time comes Labour needs to push for this.

Not least because a future Ed Miliband government without a stonking great majority in England will be a lame duck and unable to pass any legislation for England. It’s a short term concern but it’s unlikely to go away in the event of a No vote.

Whatever the result it won’t be all bread and roses. There will be pain in transitioning to a new way of doing politics. But the end point – a politics closer to the people is what we need to aim for and this is within our grasp.

Scotland is just the glaring example of the political pain people across the country are feeling. When half the population of a country wants to leave a political system something is deeply wrong. If Scotland leaves it won’t just be because of the patronising tactics of the Better Together campaign. It will be because most the people can’t stand it any longer.

No matter what the result, devolution is coming. There is no half way house now. Labour needs to dive right in.

John Clarke blogs here and tweets here.

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