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Why Federalism Is The Future Of British Politics

Britain’s persistence with centralised government has led us into this enervating political quagmire

11/12/2017 14:15 GMT | Updated 11/12/2017 14:15 GMT

Virtually every mature democracy in the developed Western world operates under some semblance of federalism, or at least autonomism. The United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia, the list goes on and on. Following two bruising votes in the form of the 2017 General Election, and the 2016 Brexit referendum – Britain needs constitutional change to quell the increasingly polarised and centralised nature of our politics.

First, a bit of jargon busting. Federalism is essentially a procedure of government in which semi-sovereign regions or provinces operate their own legislature under that of the national parliament. We already have four devolved parliaments in the UK; in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London. However, the other eight regions go underrepresented in return. In practice, it means that some powers are transferred from Westminster back to lower levels of government, where it makes a lot more sense for them to be held.

It seems, in the wake of the 2016 EU membership referendum in particular, that many people in the UK feel disaffected with ‘far-away power’, or the notion of distant governance. Of course, many of the brain boxes currently occupying the Palace of Westminster, during this golden age of political acumen, have failed to recognise that it is a sentiment just as sharply felt against central London as it is against Brussels.

In what is a perfect, albeit depressing, metaphor there are now just thirty miles separating the constituencies of the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. And you guessed it, they are all based in London and the South East – colour me shocked.

Surely, during this dogged age of exhaustingly polarised rhetoric, we could spin the nation’s deep divisions in to something positive and, to coin a phrase, “take back control” of our own local and regional interests from the big wigs of Whitehall, who frankly don’t care as long as it isn’t grinding the gears of anyone inside the M25.

Since national sovereignty is now apparently de rigueur, why don’t we go one further and devolve powers to all of the UK’s twelve regions, so they can take a meaningful stance on issues that affect them. The South West Parliament could legislate a binding referendum on the appropriate order for putting jam and cream on a scone. The East Midlands can pass clear-cut resolutions on just who is allowed to produce Stilton cheese, and Yorkshire and the Humber can finally reopen their war with the North West.

Perhaps ideally, these devolved bodies would preside over more serious matters too but I digress; it would have surely been better for a parliament of locals in the North East to deal with issues such as the closure of the Redcar steel works than a cabinet of southern shire county Tories whose knowledge of Teesside is that they have a rubbish football team and a smog problem.

At the start of this new parliament, there was a fresh groundswell of disdain towards Westminster, in my local area, as the government reneged on its plans to electrify the Midlands rail line, affecting thousands of commuters across the region. But what are they going to do about it? All of their meaningful decisions are made far away in the land of oat milk, courgetti and feta laced quinoa.

In many ways, Britain’s persistence with centralised government has led us into this enervating political quagmire we found ourselves in, and if that doesn’t change, London will become the prime target of anti-establishmentarians, not Brussels.