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17.12.11

English Regionalism - from where the second wind?

John Baxendale has produced an interesting article for OurKingdom that can be found here: England, Scotland and the North: a view from 'flyover country'. The basic premise being "with Scotland on the road to further devolution if not independence, and the cuts set to deepen, its time to talk about the oft-forgotten North of England".

Even if the 'oft-forgotten North of England' remark has this Cornishman choking on his pasty, quite correctly he points out that, differently to Cornwall, the left in the North of England has worked hand in glove with the Scottish left to resist "with a greater or lesser degree of success the hegemony of the south-east with its wealthier finance and service based economy". The left from the North of England and Scotland elected Blair and, if a Scottish parliament was the first wave of devolution, an assembly for the 'oft-forgotten' North East was the second. John suggests that Scottish independence would destroy this partnership leaving the North of England in a much weaker position to face London.

Whilst Baxendale doesn't overtly call for devolution to Northern England in this article its still the logical conclusion of his point of view. Equally, whether formed by default by Scottish, Welsh and Irish independence or created otherwise before, he is in no doubt that an English parliament would simply reinforce the isolation of the North. Should we not conclude the same fate would await Cornwall?

I support the creation of an English parliament in that I support the independence of Scotland and Wales as well as the reunification of Ireland. Even if the English nationalist parties that exist seem to be - at best europhobic reactionaries and at worst neo-nazis - I can only wish the best of luck to our fellow Celtic nations in their quest for independence thus creating an English parliament.

That being said Cornwall and parts of England remote from the circles of influence of London need to consider now more than ever a renegotiation of power before Scottish independence ensures a Tory majority and the predominance of the South and South East of England for decades to come.

At the end of his articles John Baxendale writes "for that matter let’s hear about Cornwall and East Anglia". I have to say this left me a little perplexed. Is Cornwall simply another potential English region silently queuing up alongside the likes of East Anglia in the hopes of getting some scraps from Londons table? Is he not aware that Cornwall has a distinct national identity, its own language, an established autonomist movement and a petition of 50,000 signatures calling for the creation of a Cornish assembly? Either John is being disingenuous in ignoring the always inconvenient Cornish question or he is simply ignorant of it. Perhaps Cornwall, being the only 'region of England' that has an organised grass-roots campaign for autonomy, is an embarrassment for a campaigner for Northern devolution still smarting from rejection? Or more worryingly is it that he has only heard faint murmurings of a regionalist sentiment coming from Kernow? If the latter is true then the Cornish movement really needs to think about how it communicates with the outside world.

What of the grass-roots English regionalists and federalists that do exist? The campaign for Yorkshire devolution seems to have fallen silent leaving only a handful of  Facebook groups. The UK Federalist Party has merged with other EU federalists to form the European Federalist Party and seems more focused on federalism at state level in Europe rather than on a sub-state and much more human scale. A tactical error I think. The Northumbria Party seems a little more dynamic than the precedent Northumbrian regionalists whilst both Wessex and Mercian autonomists seem to have little changed. Much still remains to be done to give grass-roots English regionalism an audible voice.

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