:: Thursday, August 12, 2004 ::

Geordie Power

The Journal (Newcastle): Political Party for Assembly

The Journal (Newcastle) : MP slams plan for new party

The consequences of the proposed regional assemblies are becoming clear. Now a group in the North East of England are proposing setting up a left of centre 'north east' party to represent the interests of people in the region.

The Newcastle Journal calls it "a warning to Labour party schemers deep down in the South" and call the development "the latest sign that the debate surrounding the creation of a regional assembly has energised the political life of the region".

Could they win seats? Why aye man.

"But the key to the success of such a breakaway would depend on whether it succeeded in gaining an electoral foothold in the proposed assembly.

Under the hybrid system of PR to be used for the assembly elections, voters would elect 15 constituency members and 10 "additional" or "top-up" members.

The top-up seats would be used to ensure that each party had a share of Assembly Members (AMs) broadly proportional to its share of the vote.

Assuming it did not win any of constituency seats outright, A North-East Party would therefore need to secure around 10pc of the regional vote to gain at least one seat on the assembly.

Given the recent success of fringe parties such as the UKIP, that would appear a realistic aim, even if outright control of the new body would currently seem beyond it."

Calling this group a nationalist party is of course wrong. The North East of England isn't a nation, and there is no national question in the English regions. However there is a democratic deficit. Scotland and Wales have their parliament and assembly. Even London has its assembly. But there are many English regions who were just as badly hit by de-industrialisation and face social problems as bad as Scotland or Wales. Yet they have no say.

The politics of a North East Party remain to be seen. Nonetheless this development is interesting and reflects an increasingly regionalised political scene which has developed not only because of devolution but also because of the EU. Kilroy Silk must be having a fit.

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