Expect a period of protracted uncertainty, negotiations and deals as we strive for stability and strong leadership. As hinted in my devointelligence piece, “With or without George” English devolution will be part of the solution for our cities and regions outside London regardless of George Osborne or Brexit.
The political force behind the Northern Powerhouse, George Osborne, has committed to remain as Chancellor until a new leader/Prime Minister is selected. But watch how the politics, positioning and re-positioning by Boris, Gove and Osborne evolve as the Tory leadership campaign kicks in. Given it will be messy I wouldn’t completely rule out a future without George. He’s gambled and invested far too much in his career to retire to the backbenches. Remember too, that Boris is a fan of the devo-mayoral model. So there is room for optimism on the devolution revolution front.
But with both the Conservative and Labour parties in free fall it is difficult to see a way forward in the short term as both grapple with resignations, control and leadership in Brexit’s wake. However devolution remains a great opportunity for Labour heartlands and areas of economic and social deprivation. In May next year Labour Mayors could have powers to deliver real hope and independence. Labour must reclaim the devolution revolution agenda now and focus on winning. They must not miss the devolution boat because of Captain Corbyn or to be distracted by internal mutiny.
The selection of Mayoral candidates will begin to gather pace in the months ahead despite the prevailing political uncertainty. We need a new breed of Mayor possessing vision and ambition. Civic Leaders who can capture the public’s imagination and who can deliver growth, investment, jobs, skills and increased connectivity across the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine. The devolution revolution may move more slowly and be overshadowed by Brexit but if grasped it could also provide solutions and political stability as well as deliver control and new powers.
To add to the political mayhem there is now a real prospect of an early General Election if Boris wins. We also cannot rule out a second Scottish referendum. An independent Scotland inside Europe and the break up of the UK could be a reality. Look at what might happen in Northern Ireland too?
But the people have spoken and they demanded Brexit. This ‘new dawn’ should mark a new era of voter engagement and empowerment. The people should find greater devolved power and local control appealing in the run up to May 2017. Indeed the “take back control” mantra will dominate the terms of the political debate from here on in. In this context the devolution revolution would appear to be unstoppable.
Meanwhile – and after six proud months of weekly news and blogs – devointelligence will become a monthly bulletin at least until the leadership elections are over. It will remain the best way to keep up to date on all the devo-news and views across the UK and we will also keep you posted on key announcements.