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Nearly there Gordon!

By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

Gordon Brown is back....with a raft of ideas for scrapping the Lords and giving a lot more power to the North. But Jim asks what priority will it have in a Labour government?He also previews the latest North West by election, this time in Stretford and Urmston.

There are many good recommendations in Gordon Brown’s proposals for constitutional change under a Labour government. As with all such plans, the usual questions are raised. They include the complaint that in a period of economic crisis, this is not the time to mess around with process issues. Another is that the voters aren’t interested. Well, they are interested in the mess that the present set up of over centralisation has got us into, so let’s get some of Mr Brown’s measures on the statute book (without referendums) and see how we go.

LORDS REFORM

The abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement by an Assembly of Nations and Regions has got most attention. It seems an excellent idea to elect people from regions like the North West. At the moment 75% of peers come from the South East. However, I have always believed 20% of the places in the Lords should be reserved for experts in their field like scientists and representatives of all faiths. Brown seems to want a fully elected Assembly which I think would exclude non-political people who contribute richly to the current Lords.

DECENTRALISATION

This is a theme running through many of the 39 recommendations. Brown has accepted the role of elected mayors but seems to accept that for strategic decisions regional bodies will have a place. He goes on to praise even wider bodies like the current Convention for the North and looks towards a Council of the North.

RESPECT FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT

At last, we see a major constitutional document respecting the vital role of local government. Brown wants them to have increased access to the British Business Bank and Regional Investment Bank.

He has detailed plans for local authorities to control the skills budget, something Downtown has been campaigning on for years.

He wants to give Town Halls medium term certainty over funding and wants to create Special Local Legislation, pointing out that is how the great cities of Victorian England got their energy and sewage powers.

SAVING THE UNION

It is argued Gordon Brown saved the Union in 2014 with his “vow” to the Scottish people. This document seeks to devolve more power to the nations but bind them into a Council of Nations and Regions, and a Council of the UK. He also wants a Council of England to bring mayors and local government together. That is a far more sensible idea than an elected English Parliament.

Labour will have a lot on its hands when it comes to power, we will see if this is consigned to a second parliament i.e.: kick it in the long grass.

SECOND THUMPING

I forecast a bad result for the government in the Chester by election, and so it proved. The North West will be sending another shot across the Prime Minister’s bows next week when Stretford and Urmston go to the polls.

The by election is unnecessary in my opinion. Was Kate Green MP the only, or right, person to replace Beverley Hughes who wants to stand down as Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime in Andy Burnham’s team?

Anyway, Andrew Western, the leader of Trafford Council will be elected to represent this industrial and suburban seat in the south west of Greater Manchester. Home to the grounds of Man Utd and Lancashire Cricket, it also is the location of Shell at Carrington and the giant Trafford Park Industrial estate. Before boundary changes it was represented by Winston Churchill’s grandson, but since 1997 it has been a Labour seat and will remain so on Thursday.

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