One of the biggest questions still looming after the election is the balance of power for EVEL or English Votes for English Laws.
The controversial voting policy which was used for the first time last year has had its fair share of critics and with Theresa May’s Conservatives having failed to achieve a majority in last week’s elections it is set to return to the forefront of British politics.
There was speculation in the press after last week’s vote that May had lost her majority when it came to EVEL. This is not the case.
— Simon Thomas (@SimonThomasAC) June 9, 2017
Unlike in the UK as a whole, May managed to achieve a majority in English seats. Of the 533 seats on offer in England the Conservatives lost 22 to bring their share to 297 MPs, meanwhile Labour gained 21 to finish with 227 MPS.
When added to 8 Lib Dem members of Parliament, and the solitary Green MP it means that the Prime Minister has a majority when proposing legislation affecting England only.
Whilst this may sound positive for Theresa May the problem is that to keep onto power on wider decisions, May has had to rely not only on her new Scottish MPs, but also DUP assistance. Neither of whom she can now hope to ignore.
Additionally such numbers still require all of May’s MPs to stay in line. With recent condemntation from some areas of the party, Tory whips will be more important than ever.
Nevertheless on maths alone May has the advantage.
What is EVEL?
The result of the Scottish referendum in 2014 caused many in Westminster to question whether England needed its own parliament to decide upon English issues.
Often referred to as the ‘West Lothian Question’, Tam Dayall gave the issue its name in Parliament in 1977.
Many of the issues discussed in Parliament affect solely English voters. Scotland has control of its own education, health, tourism and much of its transport policy. Similar powers exist in Wales and Northern Ireland who also have their own devolved governments.
The Conservative party in particular were particularly worried that Sturgeon’s MPs would vote recklessly on issues because they had no impact on them or their constituents.
Under EVEL a committee made of only English MPs would scrutinise a proposed bill with a majority needed amongst English MPs as well as all MPs to agree it.
Why does this all matter?
If May had managed to keep her majority over the whole of the UK or even extend it as many expected her to then there would be no question over the future of the EVEL policy.
The problem for the Tory leader is that her party are now being described as hypocrites for not letting the people who would keep them in power – namely their Scottish MPs and DUP partners – vote on English issues.
The DUP, as well as the Labour Party and SNP, spoke out against EVEL at the time fearing it would lead to a two tier system.
As a result EVEL and its abolition are likely to be key talking points around the negotiating table this week.
What effect does this have on Corbyn?
Looking at the Parliamentary balance of power in terms of English seats, we can clearly see that the Labour leader, even if he tried to form a coalition, would not be able to pass through laws in England. The maths simply does not add up. He would have to hope for a major lack of discipline in the Tory party to help him pass bills which is not something that is likely to happen in the numbers he would require.
However, if EVEL was abolished under a coalition deal which then failed and led to another election Corbyn would have a much easier time pushing through legislation in England under any deal he might do with other parties like the SNP and Plaid Cymru. In this way the current confusion over the policy and its future perhaps benefits his Labour Party the most.
What would an end to EVEL mean in South Yorkshire?
An end to EVEL could see an end to the return of selective education as the Labour Party amongst others are particularly against the revival of grammar schools. It would also mean that wider issues such as planning and transport that affect the region would once again be debated and scrutinised by MP’s from across the constituent countries of the UK.
In short a policy designed to keep Scottish influence out of English politics may have to be surrendered because Scottish and Northern Irish influence was the only thing that kept an English PM in Westminster.
Got it? Good.