Matthew Parris: Don't wreck England to foil Sturgeon

I used to have a great deal of time for former MP and current Times columnist Matthew Parris.

I confess that I have found myself agreeing with what Matthew writes much less often since June 2016 than was usually the case before that. The EU referendum was only the highest profile of a number of instances where, even though he and I may well have voted the same way, he has had more difficulty than I in coming to terms with the outcome of a ballot.

But when he is, in my humble opinion, right, Matthew's words are often really clear and powerful, and his piece in today's Times,

"Don’t wreck England just to foil Sturgeon"

is very good indeed.

I take issue with him on just one issue - he writes that "a handful" of councils with elected mayors work well and most don't. 

In my humble opinion it is the other way round. Several Metro Mayors like Andy Street and Ben Houchen are doing a fantastic job, most councils with a directly elected mayor are working far better than they would with a less accountable "leader and cabinet" executive and only a handful don't.

But the main thrust of Matthew's article is that, whatever options for further devolution may be made to satisfy the desire of Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish people for more control over their own affairs, it should not included breaking up England.

I could not agree more.

I am totally in favour of devolving more power to LOCAL councils covering an area no larger than our present counties in a way which as far as possible respects bottom-up initiatives and reflects genuine local communities of interest, history and culture. I would love to see a metro mayor for Cumbria with real devolution to our county who can deliver some of the benefits Andy Street has brought to the West Midlands and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley.

I am totally opposed to imposing another level of politicians in England at the regional level governing what would inevitably be huge, remote and artificial regions.

When the last Labour government wanted to go down the road of Regional Government I will give them credit for putting it to the public (they undoubtedly thought they would win) starting in the North East which was then one of their strongest bastions of support and where they thought they had the best chance of getting it through.

The idea of an elected Regional Assembly was smashed to smithereens in the referendum - North East voters threw it out by not far short of four to one. 

That was enough to kill the idea for a decade and a half. Three years later the government quietly scrapped the unelected regional assemblies they had set up as a precursor to elected ones.

But memories fade and perhaps a few people need reminding of how the voters of the North East reacted in 2004.

Matthew Parris writes

"Nothing would be better calculated than to galvanise an English identity than an attempt, in a panicky bid to coax Scotland into staying, to smash England into pieces.

So there are three words for those whiz-kids who would dismember England to win Scotland.

Don't go there.

Hit than idea on the head now."


With a big hammer."

I agree with Matthew. 

By all means let's consider further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - though it would be nice if the SNP government of Scotland had the guts to take responsibility for the huge areas of competence for which control and authority has already been devolved to them instead of constantly blaming the UK government for things they have been running and fouling up for years.

But the last thing we need is more regional government in England.


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