Part of the argument about the election results has become whether Corbyn’s Labour should have pitched itself more profoundly against 40 years of Thatcherism. I have my own critiques of the New Labour governments, but I hadn’t seen a failed Regional Policy as one of them. Here are my notes. …

Here’s the left, Jeremy Gilbert at Open Democracy Labour should have argued against the last 40 years, not just the last ten, these ideas were echoed by Zara Sultana MP, in Parliament. What furore she caused by talking of 40 years of Thatcherism. It may have been a throwaway comment in what was otherwise (or because of it) a fabulous speech.

The academic papers

  1. Louise Dalingwater, « Regional Performance in the UK under New Labour », Observatoire de la société britannique, 10 | 2011, 115-136. : Abstract
  2. Citation: HARRISON, J., 2006. The political-economy of Blair’s New Regional Policy. Geoforum, 37 (6), pp. 932-943 : Abstract

On Dalingwater’s paper, here are the notes I extracted

>… successive [New] Labour governments moved away from some of the more successful regional development policies of the past and focused on five drivers without proving first that these essentially national drivers could be applied successfully at a regional level.

… the government’s analysis failed to recognise the underlying problem that certain regions of the north have tended to get locked into certain industrial structures and technologies that are inappropriate and outdated. They then have significant trouble adapting their institutions and structure to new activities.

… this meant that a number of previously established community based economic initiatives were shelved, for example credit unions, time banks, community enterprises and intermediate labour markets. These initiatives had proved successful in the past in creating employment and additional income, supporting social capital and in encouraging local participation in deprived communities.

… according to the main indicators, New Labour did not succeed in narrowing the gap between many of the southern and northern regions. Currently, the gap between the richest and poorest regions of the UK in GDP per head (at level of NUTS2) is the highest among all European Union countries

The absract from Harrison reads,

The ‘region’ and ‘regional change’ have been elusive ideas within political and economic geography, and in essence require a greater understanding of their dynamic characteristics. Trailing in the backwaters of the devolution to the Celtic nations of Britain, the contemporary era of New Labour’s political-economic ideology, manifest through ‘third-way’ governance in England places the region and its functional capacity into the heart of geographical inquiry. Drawing upon a new regionalist epistemology, this paper seeks to recover a sense of (regional) political economy through a critical investigation of the development and formulation of Blair’s “New Regional Policy” (NRP). I address how New Labour has attempted to marry economic regionalisation on the one hand, and democratic regionalism on the other. This paper specifically questions the wisdom of such a marriage of politically distinct ideologies through a critical investigation of the underlying contradictions of their strategy from both a theoretical and empirical standpoint. Demonstrated both in the North East no vote in 2004, and in the post-mortem undertaken by the ODPM Select Committee in 2005, the paper illustrates how a loss of political drive gradually undermined the capacity of devolution to deliver in England. Finally, I argue that through the lens of the NRP we can speculate on some of the wider issues and implications for the study of regional governance.

More if you want it

  1. New Labour’s Regional Policy, a google search

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