It’s not often that I that recommend following the lead of the French, but it’s time to admit, they got something right. The French “Overseas Departments” have representation in their Parliament and it’s time the British allow the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies MPs in Westminster.
Why the sudden the interest in constitutional tinkering? Have I been amazed by the coalition performance & general spinelessness of Clegg & Co.? No I have not, and I certainly hope for a Conservative majority following the 2015 election. However, there are two reasons I see for a change here. The first reason is one I ripped off the idea from Iain Dale on his “At Drive” programme on LBC 97.3 (which goes national today). Iain was interviewing a Lib Dem MP, and being a Lib Dem MP, this LD had some crack pot waste of time constitutional tinkering idea, this one for co-MPs and the other for an MP just for ex-pats, when Iain suggested MPs for the Overseas Territories idea. I thought Iain’s idea was the first sensible constitutional tinkering idea I have heard because it recognises colonials (I know that term is not PC but I don’t know what else to call them) are still British. Had the American colonists been given a couple MPs in 1770 we might still be one country. The second reason I thought it would be a good idea is because, frankly, I don’t see why they don’t have an MP. There are approximately 500,000 people living in British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and I think it would be good idea for them to have a say on issues that affect them; especially considering that there are now devolved parliaments and assemblies in the United Kingdom in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Obviously, there are differences in legal status between the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories. The Crown Dependencies (Isle of Man and the Channel Islands) are more autonomous, have a much older British history, and a more unique and distinctive culture. Overseas Territories, on the other hand, were largely settled and maintained for Britons and the British military. But what’s important is that they are all British. All 14 territories and the three crown dependencies fly the Union Jack.
So in this year where Scotland is being faced with a question of whether to remain British, why not have the government confirm politically what it truly means? The government should remind Scots that Britishness encompasses everybody from the English to the Scots to Carribeans, that the United Kingdom does not just mean southern “posh” English. Learn from the French, let’s give all Britons a seat in mother of all Parliaments.