This is our truth, tell us yours
I live in rural England, in a county where rural means formerly industrial, Around every corner there’s a former mine, or brewery or factory. What were once railway lines, the arteries of our economy, are now marketed as cycle paths for the leisure market. What were once busy bus routes, that replaced trains, are now either entirely gone or reduced to a subsidized skeleton.
Does that make me a second class citizen? Not exactly. I understand that a market economy means that there must be winners and losers, and that a Pareto distribution means there must be many more losers than winners.
However, that’s not my major concern. If I was a citizen who lives in London, I could elect a mayor with power to control and direct buses, trains and all other forms of public transport. Where I live I can only elect a local council who can plead with Network Rail and the Department of Transport to provide a better rail service. Their latest wheeze? The thirty five year old railbuses that provide an inadequate, slow and uncomfortable train service to just a few towns in our county are to be replaced by thirty five year old London Underground trains, converted to work on non electrified lines by strapping a Ford Transit van engine to their underside. No-one I can directly elect has any pwoer over this process.
It’s not just London. Devolution has reached Wales, and Scotland. Soon, we’re told, the citizens of Greater Manchester, a place officially abolished in the 1980s, will get the power to elect a mayor who will control the entire NHS budget for their region. Now, you and I dear reader, knowing the history of the NHS in Wales since devolution, may regard the devolution of powers to administer the budget without powers to raise more money via taxation as a trap for the unwary, but as a second class citizen I needn’t worry, since I’m not being offered the choice.
How did our democracy become so debased, that the idea of universal rights and powers degenerated into a patchwork quilt of different devolved powers for different communities, distributed to a political framework and timetable that suits the interests of the governing party? Anyone who consents to such devolution, without making the case for such powers to be shared universally, is consenting to the creating of a democratic caste system, where citizens of the newly christened ‘Northern Powerhouse’ (far to the south of where I live) are deemed to be more worthy of rights and powers than I am.