Gordon Brown is planning to introduce a regional minimum wage which will see people in the South East earning a much higher minimum than people in the Midlands.
Whilst there is a certain logic to the idea – living costs are considerably higher as you get closer to London – the system will be open to abuse and is evidence of a concerted effort to strengthen the regions.
Since coming to power, Gordon Brown has pledged to abolish the unelected Regional Assemblies but has handed over most of their powers – and more – to the unelected Regional Development Agencies. He has also appointed Regional Ministers and pledged his support for regional government in England.
We spoke with an expert mortgage advisor at getmemymortgage.co.uk who told us ‘ this is great news for the public, living in london is costly and increasing the minimum wage for this location is only right, young people are the future and if they cannot afford to live in the capital we will not be able to keep growing.
Setting aside the fact that as he was elected in Scotland nobody has given him a mandate to interfere in local government in England (he cannot do so in his own constituency as it is a matter for the Scottish Parliament), the future for local government under Gordon Brown is obvious. He was a great supporter of John Prescott’s Regional Assemblies and has remained committed to breaking England up into regions despite the continued rejection of regionalisation by the electorate. His support for City Regions, Regional Development Agencies and Unitary Authorities and the appointment of a Regional Minister, establishment of a Regional minimum wage and other region-based changes that he is making points towards another attempt to impose elected regional government on England.
A couple of years ago we were promised referenda on regional government but only the North East euroregion got one. They gave the wrong answer (78% of people said no despite it being the euroregion the British government said had most support for regional government) so the rest were cancelled. However, Gordon Brown’s regime has as much respect for the democratic process as Tony Blair’s did. The promised referendum on the EU not-a-Constitution is no longer going to happen even though the new treaty is 96% identical to the EU Constitution that was rejected by the French and Dutch and which Tony Blair pronounced dead. The three referenda held in Shropshire which all returned “no” votes for the unitary authority the county council proposed have been ignored and Shropshire’s district councils are being abolished in favour of a sub-regional unitary authority.
The British government has shown sustained contempt for public opinion (I could spend hours writing about different examples and still not mention them all) and there is very little possibility of a referendum on regional government. There is a very real danger that within the next 12 months England will finally have been wiped off the map and replaced with 9 euroregions, each with a gutless regional parliament. England will no longer exist except as a name in the history books. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with their national governments will flourish, whilst the ineffective English regions will be competing with each other for a bigger share of the same pot of money, too busy fighting one another to challenge the dominance of the devolved national governments in the other three home nations.
On that apocalyptic note, back to the regional minimum wage and my assertion that it will be open to abuse. Unless regional government is established in England before the next general election, Labour is likely to lose control of the country. It no longer has a majority in Scotland or Wales and doesn’t even stand candidates in Northern Ireland. It has a slim majority in England because of the “reformed” electoral boundaries that allowed them to poll 60,000 votes less than the Conservatives during the last election but still win more seats. If recent local election results are an indication of public opinion, Labour will be devestated at the next general election despite the “Brown Bounce”. However, regional elections are another matter entirely and with the right voting system, Labour stand a very good chance of holding on to a majority of regions and regional minimum wage rates will be an excellent tool to entice voters. Regional funding, regeneration projects and hospital closures have been used to great effect by Labour over the past few years to help secure marginal constituencies and to punish non-Labour areas. There is very little doubt in my mind that a regional minimum wage will be used for the same political purposes.