Thursday 12 March 2015

Unpublished letter 1: intelligent devolution

I had a busy time last week writing letters to the Guardian  which , alas, they didn't find worthy of publication.  Here's the firsst.

In response to a proposal by Simon Jenkins that parliament moves to Manchester it may not wish to move back:

Dear Editor,

I'm sure Simon Jenkins is correct in his observation that “the Palace of Westminster may not be fit for purpose , but it is a holy of democratic holies”  (Westminster may be crumbling but this is our chance to reclaim democracy, 5 March) but I believe that his solution of trundling the whole caboodle to Manchester is inadequate.

My ideal solution would be to have two parliaments.  The one in Westminster, suitably repaired  and basking in its historical prestige, could house representatives of the entire United Kingdom and debate and legislate for the sexy subjects of  foreign policy, defence, relations with the EU and UN,   management  the currency , some taxation to facilitate equalisation grants between the nations, and oversight of the BBC and weather forecast. 

A second parliament, for England only  and based not in Manchester but York, historically England’s second city, should deal with such remaining matters as have not been devolved to the English Regions – the law, legal and justice systems, frameworks for education and the health and care services, national transport systems, etc, and taxation to finance its responsibilities.

This scheme would facilitate a welcome dispersal of powers and functions, whilst allowing Westminster politicians to continue to strut around feeling important.

The precise distribution of powers and functions between the parliaments and regional assemblies should be decided by a constitutional convention, to which it would be good if all parties would commit during the coming election

Yours sincerely,


  1. York cannot cope with what little traffic it has at the moment, even when it is not flooded in one of those regular winter downpours that make it the Venice of the North. It is a great place for a day out, interesting history, excellent museums, unique railway museum, easy to get to if you happen to Iive in that one part of Yorkshire. But it is not really living in the 21st century and it is not a good site for a Parliament serving Cornwall, Pembroke, Westmoreland, Kent or anywhere south or west of Derby. Sorry York - not fit for purpose.

  2. I suppose on that criterion you'd have to go for Meriden, near Birmingham, or perhaps Birmingham itself, though that's already pretty well built up and prosperous. We need to "spread it around."

    I still prefer York. The objections you cite could be surmounted by putting the parliament building and associated offices on the outskirts, cf York University. But, local loyalties apart, my main objective is to get the administrative centre, and associated mindset, out of London and into somewhere more typical of the rest of England.