Labour MPs turn on 'Scots Mafia'

Tom Griffin
1 June 2008

Tom Griffin (London, The Green Ribbon): "At some stage — perhaps very soon — the English Question will explode into British politics, and will decisively change the political landscape," Frank Field argues in a Telegraph piece today.

The front page of the Sunday Times suggests that Field is not alone among Labour MPs.

The anti-Scots backlash has been prompted in part by the humiliation of the Crewe by-election where Labour’s campaign was run by a Scot, Steve McCabe, a government whip. He has been criticised for running a negative campaign caricaturing the Conservatives as “toffs” that backfired among English voters.

The paper quotes Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, calling for Jack Straw to be installed as an English Deputy Prime Minister, and MPs Keith Hoyle and Steven Ladyman demanding more English voices in the cabinet.

There are four Scots in the cabinet, including Brown and Darling. Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary from Renfrewshire, and Kilwinning’s Des Browne, the defence secretary, are both highly rated by the prime minister, but some English MPs question their ability to communicate with voters south of the border.

It will not be easy for Brown to respond to these demands within the current Westminster structure. There are no longer any Scottish Cabinet Ministers with obviously 'English' briefs like Health or Transport. The SNP would seize on any move that was seen to be excluding Scots from key UK-wide areas like the Treasury or Defence.

The opportunities for Scottish politicians at Westminster have already narrowed significantly since the heady days of 1997, and they look set to narrow further. Neither this nor Brown's own predicament will be lost on the rising generation of Scottish political leaders, a classic formula for nationalism.

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