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.

Cable – I’m really warming to him – Quite the old radical when I thought he would not be

www.independent.co.uk/voices/vince-cable-brexit-white-nigel-farage-nostalgia-lib-dem-ukip-immigration-racist-a8251966.html

The Independent has an interesting opinion piece on Vince Cable and his recent controversial but spot on analysis of many Brexit voters.

Cable certainly hit some raw nerves on the right and indeed on the right wing of the left too if you get my drift. That Bluekippers would get upset is a given but Cable also made some of what Labour calls its working class vote uncomfortable too. Many of Labour’s core voters are often right wingers in reality even though their tribal instinct is to vote Labour. What’s more many of them are Brexit supporters and as an old Labour Party member and trade union colleague of mine once said to me many years ago – there’s more racists in the Labour Party than there are in the Tory Party – or words to that effect. No wonder Cable’s commentary on the EU Referendum got a reaction!

On a wider perspective, I must say I am really warming to Cable. I feared he would be a moderate centrist but he’s hitting a lot of quite radical notes for me, not least in calling out Corbyn for his regressive approach to the EU and his backing of Brexit. This quote sums up Cable’s radical agenda:-

‘Corbyn lets down the people he claims to defend. You can’t speak up for the poor and be complicit in making us poorer, claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash, be an advocate for workers’ rights and stand by while we leave the EU, which protects workers.’

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting