I have to say, I struggle with the whole idea that devolution is a natural solution to our political problems which will necessarily deliver a fairer and more equitable politics. The United States, for instance, has a political system entirely based on wide devolution of major powers to individual states and cities, but that has not made it a socialist Utopia. I have already mentioned UKIP; at the last council elections a large part of their political platform was the desire of “ordinary people” to take back power from Westminster. I can certainly get behind the idea of a large regional council with significant legislative and tax raising powers (which I presume is what is meant by devolution, although none of its supporters have yet put forward a proposed framework) if such a council were to be under the control of the Labour party, the Liberal democrats or the Greens; under the control of UKIP, not so much.
This debate has already allowed David Cameron to successfully set one elephant trap for the left in which it is currently struggling, namely, the English votes for English laws proposal, which would make it considerably harder for a left wing government to enact legislation affecting health and education in England and Wales. Personally I would like a bit of calm reflection and some serious consideration of the implications of various options around devolved power before we go any further.
For we also have the London question. Ah, London, that great monolith of wealth and vested interest which sucks the lifeblood from the rest of our fair country and rides roughshod over the interests of its citizens to feather the nests of foreign oligarchs and the big business cronies of its ruling elite. Well, yes….up to a point. The trouble with London from the point of view of the devolutionists is that it is the powerhouse of the United Kingdom. It is a world city, perhaps the preeminent world city of its era, largely because of its many advantages. It sits within a country and an economic area that are highly politically stable. It is politically moderate and tolerant of immigration. It has access to a large educated English speaking workforce. It is on a timeline which allows its inhabitants to start their working day speaking to Beijing and finish it speaking to Los Angeles. And furthermore, it is a cultural hothouse and a mightily wealthy and civilised city which provides a pleasant place to operate for the global power elite.