One of the most interesting aspects of the Scottish referendum campaign was the way that political parties and organisations of various persuasions came together to fight for a common cause. It was no suprise to see Labour, the Tories, the LibDems, the Orange Lodge, big business and most of the British media unite to save the Union. Meanwhile, the pro-independence movement saw the SNP, the Greens, the Scottish Socialist Party and various grassroots organisations, such as the Radical Independence Campaign, come together to promote the progressive case for self-determination.
South of the border, there are various organisations attempting to push greater regional autonomy and devolution for the North of England onto the political agenda.
• The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is named after a socialist suffragette and campaigns for “democratic government in the North of England” within a federal United Kingdom. It has members from Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and independents (and apparently a couple of Tories as well).
• The Campaign for the North calls for a devo-max Northern government, an aim we would support on the journey to full independence.
• The Free North Campaign – we go further in calling for complete Northern independence. Our political outlook is socialist and republican. We believe there is always a danger of nationalism becoming narrow-minded and reactionary unless it has a clear progressive agenda based on Left principles.
Various political parties have also paid lip service to the idea of devolving power to the North and other regions. How seriously they actually take the idea is questionable and obviously dependant on party political interests.
The FNC believes there should be a broad coalition focussed on advancing the interests of the North. This coalition should exclude reactionary forces such as UKIP and the various Far Right groups that attempt to co-opt themselves onto campaigns as a means of advancing their own divisive, supremacist agendas.
We think it makes sense for a new political party to be formed that would campaign for greater devolution and autonomy for the North of England and stand up for Northerners against the London-centric Westminster elite. We wouldn’t expect such a party to fully embrace our socialist, republican and pro-independence ideals, but it should – at the very least – advance a regionalist agenda based on the values of social justice and economic prosperity for all, not just the few. Many European countries, notably Spain, have parties based on this model, while Britain has the likes of Plaid Cymru, the Scottish National Party and Mebyon Kernow in Cornwall.
We live in interesting times. If Northern devolution/autonomy is going to gain widespread grassroots support, we need to capture the imaginations of Northerners and not allow the debate to get lost in bland, bureaucratic jargon spouted by career politicians.