Sunday, August 15

Let the People Know

''Not Just a local Issue, but an event of national significance''
Christopher Booker - page 12 The Sunday Telegraph
. 15 August '04

Two important articles have been published today in The Sunday Telegraph. The headlines 'Prescott overseas Britain's silent metamorphous' and 'Mandelson joins the real Government' are I suggest followed by the two most important pieces to have been published in the Booker Notebook pages in recent months.

The essential fact that Mr. Mandelson is about to ''join the real Government'' of the UK and additionally November's Referendum in the North East is an event of ''national significance''. The painful and essential reality that currently few people are aware of. the significance of what is happening around them. This is particularly the case in the North East which is the focal point of the next stage of the redrawing of the political map of Britain. Those that are aware remain mostly unfocused on how to counter attack Prescott's regionalisation ambitions, including I firmly believe our Prime Minister.

Mr Blair said to me in reply to my pointed question (at a business peoples lunch in his constituency two years ago) when I was seeking the Premiers level of support of his deputies regionalisation plans, ''some in the Cabinet are keener than I am on regionalisation''.

The UK's small business representatives were likewise 'less keen' in fact they rejected Prescott's regionalisation dream at their Federations national conference in March by over 80 per cent.

The great deception of Prescott's plans are as Christopher Booker writes:

''Mr Prescott's revolution has been to make sure that he never explains clearly what he is up to The powers and scope of the North East Regional Assembly have been deliberately confused.His hope has been that, by setting about it piecemeal, no one will cotton on to his grand plan''.

The Deputy Prime Minister's strategy appears to be working, apathy is alive and well. Prescot knows this and is playing on it to great effect. The business community in the North East of England have fallen in line, quite unwittingly, with this plan. They believe with robotic obedience that 'regional government' is good. The fact that the regional assembly is not a government has not been seriously questioned by all but a very few business leaders. The reason is probably influenced be the 'European money' that the regions entrepreneurs have had dangled carrot like in front of them. Clever man this Mr Prescott, the fact most think he is the opposite is testimony to his political skills, unfortunately.

I have, however, only two concerns regarding today's Bookers column. Firstly not enough people will read it and secondly 'sub-regions' in the North East are and have been a reality for the business community for over four years. In true Orwellian style the 'sub-term' has been introduced into the business support structure with frightening effect.There are four sub-regions in the North East as any employee or either the Government office in the North East or the RDA will enthusiastically confirm.

Scotland, as was confirmed in the Scottish Parliament in December 2002, is regarded as a sub-national member state of the EU. I spent three months, with others, this year pointing this out to many Scots. They seemed suitably concerned at the insult and reduction in their national self determination.

In the meantime Joe Borg, a Maltase gentleman has been appointed to manage the EU's Fisheries Policy.He will have more say in what happens to the UK's fishing industry than our ministers or officials in DEFRA. And before anyone accuses me of xenophobia, Mr Borg and I are distantly related.

Finally, all Booker notebooks are good - some are better than others - today's page is of national importance.

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