04 July 2007
Gordon Brown claims he will introduce reforms to ensure that MPs will in future decide whether the UK goes to war. Will it make any difference? No, because it won't be a free vote and MPs will still be whipped to toe the party line. If he really wanted to ensure that power was shared and MPs were able to do the job they are supposed to, Brown would make votes on war a matter of conscience and declare them constitutionally out of bounds to party whips. Jack Straw is in charge of pushing through legislation, which doesn't inspire confidence. He was foreign secretary at the time of Bliar's invasion of Iraq.
Brown has also confirmed he will perpetuate the anomaly that means Scottish MPs can vote on matters that only affect England, but English MPs cannot vote on matters that only affect Scotland.
It looks like Brown's trying to attract LibDem voters by creating the impression he's transforming the country's political system without actually doing very much at all. Offering Paddy Ashdown a job was a smart way to attract LibDem voters as well. Brown must have known that Ashdown would turn it down, given the detail Ashdown goes into in his published diaries about negotiations with Bliar. But it doesn't matter: it sends a signal that Brown wants LibDems on his team and welcomes LibDem ticks against Labour names in ballot boxes.