One of the two candidates campaigning to be the next Liberal Democrat leader has called for a ‘New Federalism’ in the UK.
He said that:
“I don't often find myself citing Richard Nixon as an inspiration, but his concept of 'New Federalism' - "... of faith in America's State and local governments and in the principle of democratic self-government." - is an exciting one for us to explore.”
More powers are being devolved to Scotland - following the referendum where the ‘yes’ campaign got almost 45% of the vote. And more powers are being devolved to cities across England.
We live in an age where London is slowly losing its grip and devolving more powers further down the chain.
Farron wrote about the strength of the United Kingdom and how it “is a rich tapestry that is unrivalled in the world, a union of histories and rituals and oddities, stronger together than our individual parts.” He also said that “Union does not mean uniformity”, stressing the diversity of the entire country.
He said that: “it's time to start igniting the liberalism of localism; for more of our towns and cities to start marching towards the drumbeat of devolution.” The Liberal Democrats have long been for further devolution and a sort of federalism for the United Kingdom. Farron made the case for the further devolution of powers, but also says that it is “no silver bullet”.
Tim Farron is clearly trying to position himself, and his party if he leads it, as the party of devolution. The party of giving more power to the people. But in the north he is arguably being outflanked by the Conservatives and their promise of a ‘northern power-house’ and by the SNP in Scotland who are always calling for more powers.
Farron’s words will perhaps chime well with many across the country thinking that too much power is centralised in Westminster away from the real lives of ordinary people, but there are two big challenges standing in the way of Farron making his words become a reality.
Firstly, he has to get elected leader, although he is perceived as the front-runner. And secondly, the Liberal Democrats have very little political capital at the moment. They are starting the next five years from one of their lowest positions ever. With just 8 MPs they get less time to speak at PMQs and will have much less of a say than when they had 57 MPs. The Liberal Democrats can say they are the party of devolution and ‘new federalism’ all they want if that’s the way they choose, but their real challenge will be to get people to listen, act and vote for them in the future.
Read the full HuffPost article by Time Farron here.