This is our truth, tell us yours
No, bear with me. I know it’s he least exciting subject ever, but bear with me.
England has regions. They’re badly defined, and sometimes a kind of perverse exceptionalism takes over as small areas refuse to be aggregated into larger areas that they dislike. Call it the Rutland phenomenon.
Any time you mention devolution to regional assemblies people point to the referendum in North East England in 2004 which rejected the proposed scheme of devolution comprehensively.
It was, without doubt, the worst possible scheme and the worst run referendum campaign you could envisage. Yet the stupidity of people like Lord Howell makes clear that regional policy is essential.
Part of the joy of living in Northumberland is engaging with the loons and the ill-informed who think Newcastle is close to the border with Scotland, or that Hadrian’s Wall marks the border. Explaining to people that Byker, with or without its groves, is partly north of Hadrian’s Wall is a sure way of confusing tourists.
We need regional policy, and powerful, democratic regions, because of the ignorance of people like Lord Howells, and because of the diversity of the UK. Northumberland is not in Tyne and Wear. Cornwall is beyond the West Country. Those diverse voices are hardly heard at all in Westminster and need local centres of power to which they can relate. And, if you think about it as I do, that’s no different to arguing that political organizations should work to include marginalized and silenced groups.