Alexander DePfeffel Johnson is in trouble with the Scots again, following his controversial claim that devolution in Scotland has been “a disaster”, a claim he has since tried to walk back into purely a criticism of the SNP. Politicians in Holyrood recalled his 2012 claim, made while mayor of London, that “A pound spent in Croydon is far more valuable to the country, from a strict utilitarian calculus, than a pound spent in Strathclyde. Indeed, it would generate jobs and growth in Strathclyde far more effectively if you invested in Hackney, Croydon or other parts of London.” We would question the extent to which London’s economy subsidises the rest of the UK, though it continues to insist that the nations and regions could not possibly survive without it. But when you take into account the extent to which this economic activity depends on tax revenues collected from across the nation, London increasingly starts to look like an abusive partner yelling “you’re nothing without me, nothing” at their departing victim.
However, despite Johnson’s protestations, Brexit has already made it likely that the “Celtic fringe” will want to break from England and rejoin the EU as independent nations. Now, though, the breakup has spread to England itself. A new party, the Northern Independence Party, has recently emerged, and at the time of writing, has already amassed 11,800 Twitter followers. It remains to be seen whether this will translate into members and candidates for election. But it has the potential to be a game-changer in regionalist politics. The Wessex Regionalists have never promoted full independence. Our vision has always been devo max within a federal England/Britain. But the Northern Independence Party offers the intriguing possibility of a vastly shrunken England. We wish them well, but it may mean that we are forced to rethink some of our assumptions about our relationship with the rest of England. Southumbria, if we may call it that, would still have a population of nearly 40 million, and so the case for a regional tier of government remains. But would London continue to be as dominant in an England bounded by the Humber, Wye and Tamar? Only time will tell.