Friday, November 05, 2004

No Thanks, Pet

The people of the north east have voted by three to one against a new regional assembly, having wisely decided that it would cost a great deal of money but have no real powers.
The mistake of southern politicians was to think that the entire north east had a common identity. Many outsiders think that Gateshead is just a suburb of Newcastle but for most of its history it was in a completely different county. When I lived in Gateshead I sometimes met older people who told me that they hadn't been to Newcastle for 20 years, even though it's just a short stroll across the river. Conversely, my Newcastle friends asked me why I'd decided to "move south".
There are few parts of England with a strong regional identity. The south west has such a weak identity that the regional media try to impose one by adjectivising 'west' and tagging it on every headline: 'West man in West town bitten by West dog', as though people from Camborne to Swindon will see this as a local story.
With any luck the result of the north east referendum will put a stop to pretend regional government and the national government can concentrate on real Labour priorities. Fat chance.


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