Andy Burnham pleads for the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement by a senate of regions and nations (“The country is in a dangerous situation – people are afraid”, July 6). Can we take this idea forward?
The logic would then be to have elected regional authorities with the responsibility of identifying their social, economic and environmental needs and opportunities, and the resources needed to meet them. They should have the power to raise local taxes and negotiate the extent to which they need central government financial support to top them up – similar to Spain’s autonomous regions. This would mean a radical shift in the flow of resources from decentralized regions to a central government, rather than the other way around.
We know that social, economic and environmental needs are interdependent and cannot be addressed in isolation. Regional authorities can provide the integrated approach to policy formulation and implementation that is needed in the medium to long term. Strategic planning would have a key role to play.
Regional authorities should therefore be responsible for key functions that need to be integrated in the public interest. For example, health, well-being, education, transport, environmental restoration and safeguarding, water and sanitation, energy, the climate crisis and economic development.
This is the European approach, and this was the strategy in Scotland for 20 years before the Scottish parliament was created. This is why Europe has a Committee of the Regions. So there is nothing to fear. That works.
Former General Secretary of Metrex, the Network of Europeans Metropolitan Regions and Areas
Andy Burnham’s political program is exactly what we need. It may be too radical for some, but it will attract more voters than it will repel. Basically, it can help save an entire generation from political disillusionment and despair. Keir Starmer, in particular, should take note. It needs to be braver and bolder, especially in cooperation with other progressive parties, as Burnham demands.
The long-awaited defenestration of the king of the world by his courtiers has two implications for those who wish to see them all gone. First, the electoral cycle risks being shortened. Taking into account Andy Burnham’s comment that “the time comes when [the Labour leadership] have to lay the groundwork on which we will fight the next election,” is becoming more and more urgent.
Second, with a new leader in place, the Tory abstentionism that helped Labor win Wakefield could start to dissipate. Exclusion from election pacts could undermine Burnham’s laudable goal of finding common ground with other parties, including on constitutional and electoral reform, since implementation requires a viable government. Such a pact at Tatton in 1997 enabled anti-sleaze candidate Martin Bell to defeat disgraced Tory Neil Hamilton. Opposition parties should now consider adopting unit candidates in carefully selected seats, retaining their individual party tag under an alliance umbrella. The removal of this discredited government is too important to be left to chance.
Dr. Anthony Isaacs