Let’s go federal

8 Oct

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. It may not be a perfect system, but all the other systems seem to involve shooting people. It could be improved, however.  Currently the parliament at Westminster creates laws and directs policy. The laws have to be signed by Her Majesty the Queen, but her role is a largely ceremonial. Every five years (or sooner in some circumstances) those entitled to vote and who can be bothered to do so, elect a local Member of Parliament. The party with the largest number of MPs forms the government. The present administration is a coalition dominated by the Conservative Party, and propped up by the Liberal Democratic Party. There are a few months before the next election has to be held, and the parties are jockeying for position.

Scotland has considerable independent political rights, Wales rather less so. I was in Wales when the result of the Scottish referendum on full independence came through. The majority voted to stay in the union, but the Welsh news was stuffed with stories about further powers to the Welsh Assembly. I recently read a newspaper article which suggested that there should be a measure of independence for the North of England.

If you live in England, but outside of the London / South East region it quickly becomes clear that London dominates almost everything. Due to the policies of Margaret Thatcher’s governments of the nineteen eighties, most manufacturing industry was destroyed, with the promise that new jobs would be created in the service sector, especially in financial services. London is a major world centre for pushing notional money around. The problem is that in this activity is almost entirely based in London.

As a result of this success almost all new development goes into London because it has a rising population, possibly because of all the new development! It seems impossible to have any major funding projects not linked to London. The financial services sector is so important to the economy that no government dare challenge its demands for a favourable tax regime and other benefits. As a result of this, property prices in London are sky high and it is probably the most expensive city to live in on the face of the Earth.

But what of the rest of England? Well, things have improved in some ways, slightly, over the last four and a half years, but house prices have stagnated, industrial production has a few bright points but is fairly flat overall. What is more, the cost of living has risen much faster than average wages. Working people are poorer than they used to be. Oddly enough, the rich are getting rapidly richer.

Just having the North of England having some independence is a bit silly, as there are other regions. So what I am suggesting is that we reform the old Anglo-Saxon major kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex, and possible Anglia. These could have their own assemblies and budgets for development.  This would be a federal system, like in Germany.

I suggest this because discontent with the Westminster parliament is not restricted to Scotland and Wales, but is becoming more vociferous in the English regions. I value our democracy, but it needs to represent all the people in the country, not just Londoners. Also, it avoids the rise of nationalism that so worries me. Let me know what you think.

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