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All change?

Brian Taylor | 14:31 UK time, Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Intriguing statement from the PM on reform of the Commons and the constitution - both for what it said and what it did not say.

Gordon Brown attempted to regain the initiative - at least partly by placing Scottish devolution in the context of renewal of the UK.

His objective was plain: to depict his party as offering solutions to perceived problems by contrast with the Tories who, he implied, were solely concerned to talk up the challenge.

So, in the context of talking about future reform, he reminded MPs that the Tories had opposed Scottish self-government.

The changes to expenses rules in the Commons are, mostly, likely to be agreed across the parties - although the details may prove troublesome.

They include statutory regulation rather than self-policing.

That may or may not lessen the fury expressed by the public in the Euro elections. In the short term, probably not.

Written constitution

But it was the longer-term prospectus which intrigued me still further. Mostly, because of the substantial gaps.

Mr Brown offered yet another review of the system for electing MPs - without stating any preference other than retaining the link between elected members and individual constituencies.

Similarly, he said he was personally in favour of a written constitution. He was willing to look at the issue of the current voting age.

After protracted delay, we were promised final stage reform of the Lords. Mention was made of devolving to the citizen in England.

Sceptics and cynics listening to his statement - the majority, I suspect - noted that such issues had been aired previously, only to vanish once more.

It was hard, they argued, to avoid the conclusion that Mr Brown was keen to give the impression of taking command, of offering a grand design in troubled times.

We do not have long to wait for one element of the putative design to emerge.

More gossip

The Calman Commission will report on Monday, setting out proposals for enhanced financial powers for Holyrood allied to suggestions for strengthening the links between the Edinburgh and London Parliaments.

PS: Yet more gossip, here and at Westminster, re the by-election which will follow the resignation of the Speaker, Michael Martin.

It's said the contest might be held on July 23, alongside filling the vacancy in Norwich North.

Here at Holyrood, weary Labour figures are already reflecting on just how successful the strategy of holding a summer by-election was in Glasgow East last year.


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