12.00 August 25th 2014
To the news editor
PRESS RELEASE: (immediate)
New call for power to the North
Two respected academics have called for substantial power to be devolved a directly elected Northern Parliament, as part of a new ‘Federal Britain’.
Professor Jeffrey Henderson and Dr Suet Ying Ho are members of the pro-devolution Hannah Mitchell Foundation and are based in Leeds and Bristol (see notes for editors).
They make a strong case for a major re-structuring of the British state with major powers devolved to the English regions alongside Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They argue that:
“Other than Japan, Britain has probably the most centralised state system of any major country in the world. With this has come the concentration of economic, political and cultural power in a single city: London. To develop the vision and political will needed to rejuvenate the North and Britain’s other regions and nations, we consequently cannot rely on Westminster. The people of the North have to take political responsibility for our own communities”. (see below for more detailed extracts)
They are critical of the piecemeal approach which has so far been adopted by the Coalition Government and the limited vision of Labour’s proposals for devolution. They say:
“While the city-region and related initiatives are useful steps forward, after decades of neglect of the North and elsewhere, they are insufficient to the now considerable task of economic transformation. They are so, because they ultimately exist at the behest of central government.”
Henderson and Ho make a powerful case for a major political, as well as economic, re-structuring of the UK, with a written constitution that would entrench new powers for the English regions and nations of the UK:
“To develop prosperous, egalitarian economies, the North and similar English regions, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, need maximum devolution. We need, in other words, the re-formation of the entire British state. And in order to prevent reversal by future central governments, it will need to be a re-formation enshrined in a written constitution.”
The paper has been welcomed by Professor Paul Salveson, general secretary of Hannah Mitchell Foundation. “Jeff and Ying have challenged much of the accepted wisdom in both the Coalition parties and Labour, making a powerful case for much greater power being devolved to the North as well as other English regions within a re-structured Federal Britain. It’s immensely exciting and should be read by politicians of all persuasions.”
His views were echoed by Linda Riordan, the Foundation’s president. “It’s time we had some fresh, radical thinking about the way forward for the North of England. Whilst all eyes are on Scotland and the referendum, whatever the outcome the case for the North getting its own powers will become even stronger.”
The paper is the first in a series of ‘Essays for a new North’ to be published by the campaign in the run-up to the Scottish referendum and after.
The full paper is available HERE:
Enquiries: Paul Salveson 07795 008691; Jeff Henderson can be emailed at: Jeffrey.firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors:
Jeffrey Henderson is Professor of International Development and Suet Ying Ho is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. Among earlier appointments, Jeffrey Henderson was a Professor at the Manchester Business School, University of Manchester and Suet Ying Ho was a Lecturer in Urban Planning at the University of Liverpool and at Leeds Metropolitan University. They now divide their time between Bristol and Leeds and are both Members of the Steering Committee of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation.
Extracts from the paper
“While we continue to wait for the beneficial effects of the economic crumbs that fall from London’s table, we suffer the consequences of the continuing decline of the North’s manufacturing industries, its technological, entrepreneurial and skill bases; and with these, its long-term prosperity”.
“Had there been a regional governance system with explicit commitments to strategic economic planning, it could have helped check and reverse the processes of deindustrialisation that have destroyed communities and delivered many of the social problems we confront today. While economic planning is essential to the possibilities of economic rejuvenation in the North and other dispossessed regions and nations, current governance arrangements do not augur well for its prospects for success”.
“The recent Adonis report on regional economic development is at least as important for what it doesn’t say as for what it does. While Adonis and his colleagues are interested in extending and strengthening the current regional institutional apparatus – particularly Local Enterprise Partnerships and Combined Authorities– as vehicles for driving economic rejuvenation, their proposals are hardly radical. Given the deep structural problems that confront the political economies of the North, the Midlands and in varying degrees, many other parts of Britain, the report’s recommendations will be insufficient to pull the rejuvenation trick (and sustain development from then onwards)”.
“The report does not acknowledge that under its proposals, local economic development will continue to rely largely on funding controlled by central government. This is because even the entire local business levy (which the report proposes to make available for development purposes) is unlikely to generate the level of funding necessary given the enormity of the economic problems that confront some of the regions. Power, in other words, would fundamentally remain with central government”.
“Other than Japan, Britain has probably the most centralised state system of any major country in the world. With this has come the concentration of economic, political and cultural power in a single city: London. To develop the vision and political will needed to rejuvenate the North and Britain’s other regions and nations, we consequently cannot rely on Westminster. The people of the North have to take political responsibility for our own back yards. While the city-region and related initiatives are useful steps forward, after decades of neglect of the North and elsewhere, they are insufficient to the now considerable task of economic transformation. They are so, because they ultimately exist at the behest of central government.”
As with Scotland, to develop prosperous, egalitarian economies, the North and similar English regions, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, need maximum devolution. We need, in other words, the re-formation of the entire British state. And in order to prevent reversals by future central governments, it will need to be a re-formation enshrined in a written constitution.”
“Transformation will require a state capable of working with businesses, trade unions and communities to become a collective industrial entrepreneur. Allied with regional development banks supplying ‘venture capital’, it will need to be a state able to raise its own finance and develop the democratic legitimacy, intellectual capacity and political will to engage in strategic economic planning. Short of a sovereign state, only a regional state that is part of a Federal system (as with the German länder or US or Canadian states) is able to develop those types of attributes and functions. This is why the people of the North, and the British people in general, need – and deserve – such a Federal state”.