The UK faces becoming a 'failed state' without nationwide reforms, says Gordon Brown

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Gordon Rayner
·2 min read
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HAY-ON-WYE, WALES - JUNE 3: Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, at the Hay Festival on June 3, 2018 in Hay-on-Wye, Wales.  - (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)/(Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
HAY-ON-WYE, WALES - JUNE 3: Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, at the Hay Festival on June 3, 2018 in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. - (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)/(Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

The United Kingdom risks becoming a “failed state” unless Boris Johnson considers radical ideas such as replacing the House of Lords with a “senate of the regions”, Gordon Brown has said.

Writing The Telegraph, the former prime minister said Mr Johnson should also use the NHS and the Armed Forces to demonstrate the “everyday benefits” of the Union.

The future of the Union is one of the biggest issues that the Prime Minister will have to confront this year, as the SNP is expected to gain seats in May’s Holyrood elections that it will use to renew demands for a second independence referendum.

A recent poll showed that voters in all four UK nations now expect Scotland to become independent within the next 10 years, with support for Irish reunification also growing.

Mr Brown, the former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, said that “the choice is now between a reformed state and a failed state” and urges Mr Johnson to follow through on his manifesto pledge to set up a commission on democracy to review the way the whole of the UK is governed.

Mr Brown writes: “The commission will discover that the United Kingdom urgently needs a Forum of the Nations and Regions that brings them and Boris Johnson together on a regular basis.

“No country can have national integration without political inclusion, and the commission might start by learning from the experience of countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany and America where, partly because of British influence in times past, second chambers are senates of their regions, and minorities who can easily be outvoted are guaranteed a stronger voice.”

Mr Brown argues that citizens’ assemblies in each region and nation would help the Prime Minister to understand what the public are saying about the issue.

He adds that appealing to history and tradition will not work, and Mr Johnson should “focus on the everyday benefits of cooperation and reciprocity, represented by, for example, the National Health Service and our Armed Forces, and the sentiments that inspire them: solidarity and empathy”.

A poll for the Sunday Times found that Scotland would vote for independence by 52 per cent to 48 once “don’t knows” are excluded and there is a narrow lead for supporters of Irish reunification among the under-45s in Northern Ireland.