JEREMY Corbyn is moving towards backing a federal UK in an attempt to keep the Union together, it emerged yesterday.
Jon Trickett, the MP asked by Corbyn to look at constitutional issues, has indicated the new Labour leadership favours a “federal arrangement”.
Trickett, the MP for Hemsworth in Yorkshire, has been asked to set up Labour’s constitutional convention, charged with looking at the way the UK is governed, including reforming the House of Lords.
Speaking before the Labour conference in Brighton, Trickett said he would start with a “blank sheet of paper”.
But he added: “I imagine that, from the conclusions that come from the convention we may want something that is near to a federal arrangement.”
Such an arrangement would see increased devolution for England, more power handed to Wales and a central government in Westminster that was responsible only for general UK affairs.
A federal settlement would go further than the more powers proposals thrashed out by the Smith Commission, which was set up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum to deliver the “vow”.
The Smith Commission came up with a package that included more devolution of tax and welfare but retained the Barnett formula: the funding mechanism that ensures devolved Scotland receives a block grant from the Treasury.
During the run-up to the referendum, Gordon Brown made a speech saying that a No vote would see Scotland “moving quite close to something near to federalism – in a country where 85 per cent of the population is from one nation”.
The SNP has used Brown’s remarks to claim that the pro-Union parties have failed to deliver on the vow.
Trickett said it was obvious that Scots were “unhappy” with the current situation. As a Unionist, he said he was keen to find a solution that kept the UK intact.
“We know our politics is not working across Great Britain,” Trickett said, adding that any change had to be led by the people.
“Most people believe the problem lies in the political structure. We need a big overview but it cannot be top-down – we think that to do it from Westminster would be a huge mistake.”
House of Lords reform will be high on the agenda, with claims that the Upper House is “unsustainable”.
Trickett said: “I would like to see big political change. Britain has been run by a fairly small elite circle.
“It has governed in its own interests, rather than in the wider interest, but this will take as long as is necessary to get it right.”