I posted a couple of weeks back about struggles in the north of England to tackle both Covid 19 and our Government in Westminster. Here’s a link back to that posting:-
So that was my view back on 16th October but what about an alternative take on it all from a professional independent analyst – step forward former BBC North West journalist Jim Hancock and his blog piece – ‘TURMOIL IN NORTHERN POLITICS’:-
Jim neatly points to an issue which has always troubled me with regard to devolution of powers in England and how Regional Mayors can’t really stand up to Westminster. He is of course right.
This is my take on that very issue – Much talk of Regional Mayors in recent times due to Covid restrictions but devolution in England is half-hearted, that’s why I opposed the imposition of Regional Mayors. Putting power in hands of one person was another no no for me. However, I’m fully behind regional governance (well I would be as a Liberal) but for it to be useful the powers need to be extensive. What I’ve never got my head around is why on earth Labour backed the Tories devolution plans when they were clearly putting in place another level of governance but with far too few powers……
I suppose the other big question is what would northern leaders actually do differently, to what Westminster demands in this pandemic, if they had the power to defy Government? My view is that there may be many options to close down society in an attempt to control Covid 19 until a vaccine becomes available. However, in reality they are like selecting from a menu of foods you’ve not tried before. You may dislike all of them but some will be slightly healthier options than others. I suspect that closing this or that business is marginal and your view on the closure will be greatly influenced by whether you use that kind of business or not. Gyms have been the very public argument and now they’re all open following the backlash against them being closed. But surely it’s the case that by opening them the chances of supressing the virus are potentially/slightly diminished? Or looking at it a different way if you open gyms should you not close something else?
There are no easy answers whether the options are chosen nationally or regionally…………
The fact that it was poor now seems to be a fact not just my opinion – see my previous posting at:-
But the more I have thought about it the more I have come to the conclusion that the 6 Council Leaders must surely have known what a poor effort it was. That then leads you to consider why it was poor?
* Simply done too late and therefore rushed and ill-considered?
* Bearing in mind the now legendary bickering that has gone on between our esteemed Council Leaders on Merseyside could they not agree a more radical/credible submission?
* Was it an attempt to kick this uncomfortable matter into the long grass by seemingly making a submission (playing the game so to speak) but one that they hoped would be unlikely to be agreed by George Osborne?
* Were the majority of other 5 Council leaders trying to stop Joe Anderson becoming a City Region Mayor by attempting to slow down the devolution process via a poor submission?
* Or was it simply that our 6 Council leaders did not realise how poor the submission was?
How will this be outed I wonder?
And to finish this posting which is of course related to George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse strategy (whatever that may be in reality), which in itself seems to be built on John Prescott’s Northern Way (remember that?), a comment from a Labour Party friend of mine seems to be appropriate. For Northern Powerhouse read Northern Poorhouse! Seems to sum up our position in the north under the Tories quite well.
I was taken with this quote from the latest edition of Private Eye:-
‘Localism, of course, doesn’t always suit the government, which most of the time is anxious to remove as much power as possible from local authorities’ – You can read into that any government since the Second World War in my view!
This comment sums up my views on the matter very well. Yes all the political parties talk the talk about localism but they rarely walk the walk! We still live in one of the most centralised democracies in Europe and when government throws out a rope with localism and devolution written on the end of it you can bet they will soon ‘sober up’ and realise they need to start hauling that same rope back in again.
Hilary Benn, the Shadow Local Government Secretary, has said a Labour Government would give councils more freedom but austerity would continue.
The fact that Labour now seems very keen on the long-held Liberal policy of devolving power from Whitehall is often spoken off these days but the fascinating words here are that ‘austerity would continue’. A common sense remark of course but its not the message that Labour delivers locally, indeed if you believed Labour’s local utterances you would think that the election of a Labour government would end austerity and reverse all the cuts in public expenditure. Saying one thing nationally but quite another at a local level.
Labour must trust [its own] local leaders
A group Labour council leaders, including Cllr Lib Peck of Lambeth Council, Cllr Jim McMahon of Oldham Council and Cllr Sharon Taylor of Stevenage BC, have written in the Guardian recently that the Labour party needs to trust its local leaders. The leaders urge the Labour party to share power and work with them to deliver the future that communities want.
This is very much linked to the potential devolution of power from Westminster. The problem is that Labour does not trust its own local leaders and has not done for many years.
Take a look at the posting via the link above. Iain, lays out the issues very well indeed. It makes you wonder why we in the north of England have accepted being governed so poorly and so remotely (from London) for so long. He makes the Liberal cause of devolution, campaigned for over many generations, seem even more important today than ever before.