Next Salon Discussion
Tuesday 4th Apr: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion
Discussing First topical issue (Mark Iddon) and Second topical issue (Simon Belt)
Jonathan Schofield and Michael Taylor discussed Devo-Manc and whether it will help strengthen or fragment UK politics, chaired by Niall Crowley
In the autumn of 2014, Scottish voters very nearly heralded the biggest constitutional change in the way the UK is organised. On the back of that independence campaign, and ahead of the General Election, George Osborne signed a deal with the overwhelmingly Labour administration in Greater Manchester for substantial devolution of powers over government spending in the region.
The deal for Devo-Manc has been heralded as a revolutionary moment for voters in Greater Manchester, and one that will lead to wider devolution of budgetary powers in the region. There was no widespread campaign for Devo-Manc by the electorate, no marches demanding it and no election to give a mandate for the deal, so where is the impulse for devolution coming from? Is this a civil service led empowerment programme or a backroom deal to centralise powers - after all it is Whitehall that decides who gets devolved powers (Manchester does) and who doesn't (Liverpool doesn't).
There's no clear party line on devolution in Manchester - Tory George Osborne offered it, the Labour Council accepted it whilst New Labour nationally recoiled at it being done behind their backs and seemingly their support. This is not a manifesto headline issue, but the extension of powers in Manchester and roll-out to other cities will be affected by who's in power after the May election. With the devolution genie out of the bottle and the two-party system of electoral politics fragmenting, will devolution become a mechanism for national parties that are in decline to consolidate their power base in regional rumps. And where does all this leave the electorate who seem to have been well and truly sidelined by the whole process?
Historically, the wealth of the nation, and indeed from the Empire, was seen as a source of revenue for the population as a whole distributed through national government infrastructure planning. Localism has become a more popular part of the conversation in politics of late, exemplified through the Scottish devolution campaign demanding the riches of revenue from oil to be returned to the people of Scotland. Talk of a northern powerhouse around Manchester has inevitably been followed by demands for greater resources to be spent in the North around transport and building in particular. Will the discovery of potentially massive oil reserves near Gatwick lead to the South demanding more devolution and greater fragmentation of the Uk, or will this focus on devolution simply enrich our democracy?
Some background readings
Will the north follow Scotland and search for greater power? by Robert Yates, The Observer 31st August 2014
We're all in the non-uk now, by Mick Hume, spiked 22nd September 2014
MIPIM UK: Don't punish London for our success, says Boris, by Jessica Swettenham, Place North West 15th Oct 2014
Devo-Manc and the 2015 election, by Simon Belt, Manchester Salon, March 2015
Ex Tory MP forms the Northern Party, by Lauren Woods, Guardian 2nd April 2015
Why devo-Manc is not just a Tory game, by Michael Taylor, Guardian 9th April 2015
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