first thoughts - regionalisation rejected


Workers in North East England voted decisively against a regional assembly in November: 78% against on a 48% turnout. This result put a stop to referendums due to take place in Yorkshire & Humberside and North West England, and damaged campaigns for votes elsewhere — and may have delayed even further the planned polls on the euro and the European Constitution (see article, page 8). All in all, a stunning result.

Local elections last May showed that EU-inspired English regional government was not popular. At the time the novel postal voting method was blamed, as if workers do not act with thought and consideration. In fact, workers dislike and distrust these regional assemblies. They know they have nothing to do with regional identity. Nor do they see them as a counterbalance to unelected regional organisations (which Labour has also promoted). And they won't be told how to vote by "opinion formers" — whether politicians, regional trade union secretaries or celebrities.

Those favouring a greater role for the European Union believe regional assemblies support a Europe of Regions. That idea promotes the power of the EU at the expense of individual nations. It goes with the new EU constitution, especially majority voting.

The debacle in the North East has been seen as a big problem for John Prescott, who sponsored the idea. But the really big problem is for the European Union: it shows that British workers, like those in Sweden and Denmark, make up their own minds. What chance now of ratification of the European Constitution?