Scotland and Alienation
Quite a few people are unhappy with politics. In Scotland this has resulted in 45% of the country voting for independence with all of its potential problems. I see that as being in part driven by increased alienation from politics more generally.
I am in the end pleased that they have voted to remain part of the UK although I don't like the Barnet Formula. I also support proposals to strengthen devolution in England based upon City Regions. The city region of Greater Birmingham is a much better approach than the previous concept of Government Office Regions. It also allows the Marches to either have a devolved area of their own or to do things around the counties that exist.
It is, however, crucial that attempts to push Coventry into the Greater Birmingham area are resisted. Coventry is part of its own smaller city region and forcing it into the Greater Birmingham (which obviously includes the Black Country) immediately creates a conflict of interest. Coventry sits with Warwickshire, not Dudley.
Outside the West Midlands, a city region model enables Cornwall to have its own celtic devolution rather than being forced in with Stroud and Bristol. Hence this which runs with how things actually are on the ground is best.
I have recently put the parliamentary boundary maps for Yardley since the 1832 reform act into my shop window. From 1832 Yardley was part of the Eastern Division of Worcestershire (along with Droitwich and Bromsgrove), just before Yardley joined Birmingham it was in Kings Norton parliamentary seat (which was quite large). If I can get good images I will make them available on the net.
To me it is entirely rational that towns such as Bromsgrove, Redditch, Lichfield and Tamworth should also be part of the city region. Their economies are linked to Birmingham and the Black Country in the same way that Nuneaton links to Coventry. Within the context of historic boundaries in the previous paragraph this is also entirely reasonable.
Within England, however, there is no need for separate laws between city regions although funding decisions such as the decision about Stechford Railway station should not be made made in London, but instead more legally. However, the West Lothian question must be resolved so that Scottish MPs with Devo-max are not part of passing laws which apply only to England.
It does look that progress will be made on this.
However, I think it misses part of the point on alienation. The movement away from public meetings and dominance of one direction politics where most political information is merely broadcast has in my view allowed the strengthening of the executive and the full time public servants (civil servants or council officers). At the same time changes like the 2000 Local Government Act have centralised powers in authorities thereby giving more power to the full time officials.
I think this needs to be reversed. We need to move power away from the executives towards the legislatures. At the same time I intend to establish an electronic version of the public meeting for my constituents to hold me to account.
In my view this antidemocratic trend of undermining democracy has been the cause of much of the alienation and the danger of an elected mayor model of devolution is that this will further undermine democracy. (in the sense that the ordinary citizen can participate on a day-to-day basis in the political process rather than once every three or four years). Electoral reform could also assist in strengthening the power of the individual voter.
Additionally there should be greater public engagement in England in looking at how this may go forward similar in forms to the constitutional convention, but looking towards an accelerated approach.