Chris Spencer introduces the Devolution and Local Government Network’s Blog Takeover.
St George’s Day is an understated event in our national calendar. No celebrations will mark it this year, but even pre-pandemic festivities on this occasion rarely reached beyond quaint fayres in the more parochial parts of ‘Middle England’, sporting peculiar traditions such as Morris Dancing, accompanied by a pleasant jam and scones stall put on by the ladies of the local Anglican parish.
Like celebrations of St George’s Day, discussion of the future of England and Englishness is all too often derided as a quaint consideration of marginal importance, and sometimes it’s even dismissed as a discussion which only amplifies the politics of so-called ‘Little Englanders’; characterised as social and cultural conservatives who dwell in small towns and anger at issues such as immigration and wind farms. From a political perspective, on this St George’s Day it’s also worth reflecting on how the political psychodrama continuing to unfold in Scotland, and the intense interest surrounding how that might impact the future of the United Kingdom, has dwarfed the current interest in anything pertaining to England specifically.
The future of England is not a fringe matter, however. In fact, what’s happening in Scotland with the undeniable possibility of the only other consenting partner in the United Kingdom going its own way, the English question is becoming even more relevant. How England resolves its identity as well as the huge regional imbalances that exist within the country is something which is relevant to the entire nation.
Many of the debates in our politics today can be boiled down to questions of empowering people through empowering places, and critical to that are questions of how placed based identities – of nation, region, city or town – inform people’s ideas about what legitimate politics looks like. From a policy perspective, this places the discussion about devolution and the format of local government at the forefront.
In recognition of this, this St George’s Day, the Young Fabians Devolution and Local Government Network is putting England in focus to discuss different ideas about what its future could look like. Each of the following blog posts justify one suggestion from the writers’ own perspectives about how we strengthen the power of places in England to bring meaningful change to our country and make politics and decision-making more legitimate in the eyes of the English people.
The underlying consensus in each of the perspectives elucidated in these blog posts is that more devolution is the right way forward and is part of the solution. This is a debate in itself, as some do not believe that devolution is the right way forward, however, this is not the discussion for today. Instead, the issue for debate in the following analyses is what is the most effective way to deliver devolution and strengthen local democracy in England.
Chris Spencer is the Co-Chair of the Young Fabians Devolution and Local Government Network.