What on earth is ‘radical federalism’

BBC – ‘Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said different approaches across the four UK nations to tackling coronavirus are not going to “help us out of this crisis”.’ and ‘Sir Keir said it reinforced his call for “radical federalism” across the UK.’

I have a measure of sympathy with the first statement (although I feel that the island of Ireland should have a united/consistent approach) but is it not completely at odds with the second? And what on earth is ‘radical federalism’ anyway?

A definition of federalism – it’s a type of government in which power is divided between the national government and other governmental units. It contrasts with a unitary government, in which a central authority holds the power, and a confederation, in which states, for example, are clearly dominant.

A definition of radical – advocating or based on thorough or complete political or social change; representing or supporting a progressive section of a political party.

Actually both words are often used to define Liberalism but I can’t say I’ve seen them used as a single phrase before. I think on one level Starmer may mean more power to the regions and countries of the UK which as a Liberal you’ll not be surprised to hear I agree with.

But and it’s a big BUT that aim is completely at odds with wanting something, anything, dealt with on the same basis everywhere. Commonality and devolving power are all but the opposite of each other. You devolve decision making so that power is exercised at the lowest level of government. That means, for example, that you empower Parish Councils with as many powers as possible which can sensibly be exercised at a community level. You only give power to a higher level of governance when it can clearly be seen that it can’t sensibly be exercised at a lower level. But this means that different communities will do things in different ways. At a regional level it will lead to differing approaches too. You can’t have conformity and devolved power.

Yes I’m a political radical and a federalist (I identify myself as a Social Liberal) but I’d love to know what Keir’s definition of ‘radical federalism’ actually is. I fear it could mean federal when it suits and the very opposite when it doesn’t, which sounds very much like a traditional Labour approach. If it does mean that then command and control at a UK level will still be alive and well under a Starmer leadership and sadly it also means he’s neither a radical nor a federalist. To be clear and for the avoidance of doubt I’d like him to be both politically radical and a federalist.

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