region drive in trouble


The government's attempt to break up Britain into European Union Regions, each with a regional assembly, is running into problems in the North East of England, where there will be a referendum on the issue on 4 November. Similar referenda in the North West and Yorkshire have been abandoned because of the strength of opposition, but the North East is considered to be a soft target because of the active collaboration of unions, particularly UNISON, and the Regional TUC.

A televised debate by both sides held late on a Sunday night, helped a weary population to get off to sleep early. The Yes campaign criticised the No campaign for engaging a public relations guru from London in the hated South. This is sheer hypocrisy as the Yes campaign is run by a company set up by redundant Labour Party head office staff, who ran the election campaign for the Croatian Social Democratic party which subsequently lost to the Croatian fascists!

They also said that the Regional Assembly would give the North East a voice in parliament, although the North East has probably had more Cabinet members and ministers than any other region, including Blair, Milburn and Byers. Of course most parliamentary powers will be handed over to Brussels anyway if the EU Constitution is in place. The North East region "voice" would then be in competition with over fifty other "voices" in EU regions from Valga to Valetta and from Braga to Bratislava. Maybe in future this would stretch as far as Kars in Eastern Turkey - but why stop there?

The shameful role of the unions and regional TUC has assisted the government in its plans. UNISON's regional secretary has claimed that Whitehall will no longer make decisions on the region's behalf. On this she's quite right; they'll be made in Brussels. She also complained that public sector jobs are not being relocated to the North East to replace lost industrial jobs. This interesting argument suggests that the North East should be turned into a public sector version of Bangalore, at the expense of workers in the south. Why not a campaign for industry instead?

With all the local media backing the government line as well as the unions, most Labour councils, sports celebrity Brendan Foster, John Hall, who owns most of Newcastle United Football Club and most of the North East, and not forgetting Robocop Ray Mallon Mayor of Middlesbrough and the Bishop of Durham, you could be forgiven for wondering where the opposition is. In fact the No campaign has been simple and effective. Why on earth do we want more politicians?