By Paul Burgin
[Editor’s note: Brian Barder asks me to make it clear that his post to which this refers neither argued for Regional Assemblies, which he in fact opposes; nor, as suggested in a later comment, has he argued against an English Parliament, which he strongly favours in the context of an eventual move to a federation of the four UK nations.]
Recently Brian Barder put forward a compelling argument for Regional Assemblies on LabourList. It was thoughtful, concise, but had one major flaw. Notably that the only referendum that has taken place so far with regards to a Regional Assembly, saw a heavy vote against it by 78%.
There is, however, an argument that support some of the ideas Brian has suggested, and indeed deal with the thorny issue of Regional Assemblies being unpopular with a significant proportion of the electorate and that is to consider the argument for an English Parliament.
An English Parliament would have the powers currently held by the unelected regional assemblies, it would cut significant red tape, it would be cost effective and cheaper to hold a referendum and set up if there was a “Yes” vote. It would also help to encourage a sense of English identity that would not be dependent on one region, such as Essex, Kent, the Cotswold’s, Norfolk, or Yorkshire (with due respect to each of those areas).
That is not to say I wholeheartedly agree with such a proposal and I can see some of its drawbacks, not least the question of where this leaves Westminster (and that can’t be simply fobbed off with an argument on making the UK like a mini version of Canada, only with four states instead of thirteen provinces), but it is an attractive idea and one which may convince a general public, who don’t like waste and red tape, more than the idea of regional assemblies.