The Editor, Toby James, introduces a selection of posts about whether power should be devolved from London to the East of England.
The UK constitution has been sent into a state of flux. Power has traditionally been centralised in London. Civil servants in Whitehall have had the task of carrying out decisions that are made in by politicians in Westminster. Although there has been a long tradition of public services being run at the local level, central government has always had the ability to remove its powers and even abolish it if it so desired. The abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s is testament to this. Britain has therefore often held up as one of the most centrally run governments in the world.
This has changed dramatically within the past 15 years. The New Labour governments set up a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, following referendums. Over time these devolved bodies have gained control over even more policy areas. Scotland may have voted ‘no’ to independence but the Smith Commission has set out how devolution can be continued. London was given its own elected Mayor and Assembly. There is the promise of devolution to some cities in north such as Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds.
But what about the rest of the UK? The South-West or the East of England? Does it follow that East Anglia, for example, should also be given more autonomy from London to plan strategically and represent it’s interests?
Wales has it’s own Assembly but a population of only 3million. The Eastern region has a population of around 6million.
There are many options, some of which are:
- Keeping the status quo.
- More power could be given to local government.
- A regional assembly could be created for areas of England like East Anglia, or even the East of England which devolved powers.
- The East could get more representation in the House of Lords by, for example, allowing local government to indirectly elect members of the chamber to represent it.
This collection of blog posts addresses this issue. Michael Dawson from the Campaign for the North argues for regional devolution suggesting that we cannot trust ‘Britain’s political and financial elite with the rejuvenation our democratic rights’. George Nobbs, the Leader of Norfolk County Council agrees that devolution is needed that the current government’s proposal are ‘devised by the Westminster establishment to fend off any real transfer of powers to the regions of England’. Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary and MP for Norwich South looks at how a regional assembly could be achieved for the East, suggesting that it would require some local government restructuring. Rupert Read, Green Party parliamentary candidate, argues that we need a constitutional convention to take a broader and longer term view of constitutional change.
Eastminster hopes to act as a platform for debate not just among academics, but also students, politicians, policy-makers and the public. Comments are encouraged on these posts. Have your say.