It’s unlikely that Tam Dalyell had a slightly surly Scottish tennis player in mind when he posed his famous question but the relationship between England and Scotland is again in the spotlight this week, both in sport and politics.
Last night’s thrilling match between Murray and Frenchman Richard Gasquet finally saw Murray win over the Wimbledon crowd, but this followed a week of what can only be described as relative disinterest. Wimbledon is, after all, the All England Tennis Club and the Home County supporters clearly still yearn for one of their own – you get the sense that Henman Hill will never become the Murray Mound.
Even John McEnroe seemed confused, referring to Murray as ‘one of you English guys’ in commentary before retracting quickly, no doubt prompted by a desperate producer terrified of the Celtic fury about to be channelled into numerous complaints to the BBC.
Coincidentally, today Ken Clarke’s Conservative Democracy Task Force has sought to address the issue of Scottish votes on ‘English’ laws by proposing a (frankly) tortuous system which would see Scots MPs able to vote at some stages of legislation but not others. A noble attempt but one which seems to fail the clarity test at the first hurdle.
What it does show is that the question posed in 1977 by Tam Dalyell is still alive and kicking. Labour’s reliance on the votes of Scottish MPs is pushing the Tories towards a solution which would neutralise Scots MPs on issues only affecting England. Labour responds that this only plays into the hands of the nationalists, and well it might, but for the time being that seems to be a secondary consideration for the Tories.
With Labour in disarray in Scotland following Wendy Alexander’s resignation, and the Conservatives in the ascendancy in England, the West Lothian question is becoming ever-more poisonous for Labour.
Maybe an Andy Murray victory at Wimbledon would be just what the Government needs to bind the two countries together. Unfortunately a young Spanish tennis player called Nadal may have something to say about that.