James Reed: Let’s not confuse two different devolution discussions

Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has made the case for a Yorkshire Parliament
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland has made the case for a Yorkshire Parliament
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AS POLITICAL EDITOR of Yorkshire’s national newspaper it would be a brave move to argue against Greg Mulholland’s suggestion this morning that this region should have its own parliament.

And for that reason it is a relief that I instinctively agree with the Leeds North West MP that this region deserves a more imaginative and inspiring devolution offer than that which is currently on the table.

My concern is not with Mr Mulholland’s core argument, it is that we are in danger of confusing two different issues.

Greg Mulholland: Now is the time for a Yorkshire Parliament

Should Yorkshire be asking for a more ambitious devolution settlement that gives this region genuine powers to shape its own destiny? Yes, of course. But in this highly centralised country of ours that will only happen when there is a Government sympathetic to that request.

The campaign for greater English devolution must therefore focus on influencing the next General Election. If Mr Mulholland can persuade his party leader Tim Farron to include the promise of a Yorkshire Parliament in the Liberal Democrat manifesto for 2020, he might find his party’s fortunes in this region improve considerably.

More immediately we have a government in power that has set out a willingness to hand over some powers and money to areas which have elected mayors. The question facing this region is whether we want to take up that offer or not?

Although I would disagree, there is a coherent argument for Yorkshire telling the Government its devolution offer would not benefit this region and we are happy to stick with the status quo until something better comes along.

It would also be a coherent position to say we will take the powers and money available now, while continuing to campaign for something far more comprehensive in the future.

But at the moment we are doing neither.

It is a curiousity of the devolution discussion that its biggest supporters and those who would seek to prevent it have the same thing in common - they love discussions about political structures.

There is nothing devolution nerds (such as myself) like more than discussing different systems for wielding power at a local level.

The problem is those who seek to keep power in London enjoy those debates too. Because they know as long as we are debating over structures and systems we are not actually getting on with devolving power.

I think we should get on with playing the game, not taking our bat and ball home because we don’t like the rules.