In his recent article, Sam Stopp highlighted a previous Labour Party policy stance which called for more formal devolution to the regions. It has always confused me that the Labour Party, with its historic commitment to redistribution, never felt to achieve this with our democracy.
Whilst New Labour gave devolution to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and then London (quite crudely through referendums) it never went further. The referendum in the North East in 2004 was rejected and no other region was given an opportunity.
As a result, England remains heavily centralised. Important issues such as healthcare and schooling still remain in Parliament’s control. However, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London are now able to control most of these issues through their devolved authorities.
I can understand why these areas have been prioritised, considering their history and importance in the UK but the rest of the country matters too.
Why should London receive devolution but not the North or other parts of the south? The regions in the UK have their own identities in the same way Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland do.
They also have great economic potential, just like London, but above all they have a right to decide on important issues as the current devolved governments do. These regions deserve real devolution not the Tories’ sorry excuse for it. Rather than representing wholesale devolution, the Tories’ Metro Mayors are simply just sticking plasters.
Most areas are yet to receive them and it is not clear if they will be offered them or how much power will be given away. Instead of Metro Mayors, Labour should fully committing to real reform.
Labour should proudly and vocally back the creation of regional assemblies and promise to devolve real power to them. Instead of obsessing over referenda as New Labour did they should just simply promise to create them.
There is nothing wrong with doing what is necessary, it is the role of government after all and what I expect from the Labour party. We should be highlighting the real need to change the power structure in this country and bring the UK more into line with our European and Western neighbours.
We should be demonstrating the value in strengthening and rebalancing our democracy as well as encouraging local democracy and debate to flourish. We should be focused and proud to back real change in this country and finally have a message which can break through to the electorate.
If we want real change to happen, we have to be the vehicle to make it so. The Tories do not want real devolution to happen, so Labour must fill the void.