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Decentralization: An Institutional Strategy of Appeasement
Unformatted Document Text:  20 Cornwall, “Wessex” 28 and the Isle of Wight, but because of their low popularity – gaining between 0.3% and 2.8% of the vote in contested constituencies per election – and their concentration in largely Conservative or Liberal safe seats, these parties did not exacerbate either the Conservatives’ or Labour’s electoral vulnerability (see Table 1). 29 That is not to say that the mainstream parties, and specifically Labour, did not feel any electoral pressure to decentralize in England. In Labour’s case, while no separate pro-devolution party developed to threaten the party in its Northern heartland, voices in support of greater regional autonomy for Northern England did emerge periodically in the 1970s and 1990s from grassroots organizations and even from within the Labour Party’s ranks. But they were largely limited to the elite 30 and, even then, not always sincere. For instance, in 1975, concerned that existing regional inequities would be exacerbated by devolution to only Scotland and Wales, Labour MPs from the North-East raised the idea of English regional assemblies. Rather than reflecting a sincere desire for devolution on the part of the majority of English Labour MPs or even the majority of those MPs raising the issue, proposals for English regionalism were largely introduced by opponents of decentralization as a means to mobilize support against the adoption of devolution anywhere in Britain. A similar situation emerged in the 1990s when calls for a Northern regional assembly were made by mass organizations, such as the Campaign for a Northern Assembly, as well as by 28 The Wessex Regionalist Party is fighting for the recognition and revival of Wessex, a somewhat contested region of England typically thought to include parts of South West England, including Devon. http://www.zyworld.com/wessexsociety/caseforwessex.pdf accessed January 17, 2008. 29 The parties’ average vote for elections contested between 1970 and 1997 was 1.4% for the Cornish parties (Mebyon Kernow and the Cornish National Party), 0.6% for the Wessex Regionalist Party, and 2.8% for the Vectis Nationalist Party. Every district in which the latter two parties ran candidates was a Conservative safe district. The Cornish parties typically contested safe Conservative and Liberal districts. But even on the five occasions when their candidates were in seats won or lost by a less than 10% margin, the number of Cornish party voters was too small to change the outcome of the election. Calculations from Outlaw 2005. 30 Guthrie and McLean (1978: 195) report: “There is little evidence to suggest that devolution is perceived as an important issue among non-elites in the Northern Region.”

Authors: Meguid, Bonnie.
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20
Cornwall, “Wessex”
28
and the Isle of Wight, but because of their low popularity – gaining
between 0.3% and 2.8% of the vote in contested constituencies per election – and their
concentration in largely Conservative or Liberal safe seats, these parties did not exacerbate either
the Conservatives’ or Labour’s electoral vulnerability (see Table 1).
29
That is not to say that the mainstream parties, and specifically Labour, did not feel any
electoral pressure to decentralize in England. In Labour’s case, while no separate pro-devolution
party developed to threaten the party in its Northern heartland, voices in support of greater
regional autonomy for Northern England did emerge periodically in the 1970s and 1990s from
grassroots organizations and even from within the Labour Party’s ranks. But they were largely
limited to the elite
30
and, even then, not always sincere. For instance, in 1975, concerned that
existing regional inequities would be exacerbated by devolution to only Scotland and Wales,
Labour MPs from the North-East raised the idea of English regional assemblies. Rather than
reflecting a sincere desire for devolution on the part of the majority of English Labour MPs or
even the majority of those MPs raising the issue, proposals for English regionalism were largely
introduced by opponents of decentralization as a means to mobilize support against the adoption
of devolution anywhere in Britain.
A similar situation emerged in the 1990s when calls for a Northern regional assembly
were made by mass organizations, such as the Campaign for a Northern Assembly, as well as by
28
The Wessex Regionalist Party is fighting for the recognition and revival of Wessex, a somewhat contested region
of England typically thought to include parts of South West England, including Devon.
http://www.zyworld.com/wessexsociety/caseforwessex.pdf accessed January 17, 2008.
29
The parties’ average vote for elections contested between 1970 and 1997 was 1.4% for the Cornish parties
(Mebyon Kernow and the Cornish National Party), 0.6% for the Wessex Regionalist Party, and 2.8% for the Vectis
Nationalist Party. Every district in which the latter two parties ran candidates was a Conservative safe district. The
Cornish parties typically contested safe Conservative and Liberal districts. But even on the five occasions when
their candidates were in seats won or lost by a less than 10% margin, the number of Cornish party voters was too
small to change the outcome of the election. Calculations from Outlaw 2005.
30
Guthrie and McLean (1978: 195) report: “There is little evidence to suggest that devolution is perceived as an
important issue among non-elites in the Northern Region.”


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