I had an interesting discussion with a coble enthusiast when I went along to Mission Aid at the Fish Quay last Saturday.
Cobles are traditional wooden boats unique to the North-East coast, possibly dating back to Viking boatbuilding, and are part of our historic identity.
It led to a discussion of how I see and describe myself – British, of course, a North-Easterner often, but rarely, in truth, English.
When the government announced its plans for EVEL (English votes for English laws), rather than the peals of liberation, I heard alarm bells. There is undoubtedly an issue. Devolution has given Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland greater control over much of their own affairs, yet the MPs they send to Westminster can choose to vote on English matters.
The Government proposes letting the Speaker decide which are English-only laws – very few in reality – and introduce a veto for English MPs. In practice, this will be more complex than it sounds, with the Speaker’s decisions almost certain to be challenged in the courts.
I’m sceptical because our interests in the North East may not be better served by MPs from London and the south, albeit also English, rather than devolving more decisions to our own region.
I’m also very concerned that a veto will create two classes of MP, and by moving towards a federal system, the proposals will undermine the foundations of the UK.