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Why the North East said 'no'
THE NORTH East of England gave a crushing 'No' vote to New Labour's plans for a Regional Assembly. The referendum's turnout was over 47%, with a massive 78% voting against. The government has since been forced to shelve plans for similar assemblies across England.
So why has the North East given such a big thumbs down to the idea of a devolved assembly? New Labour realise that people from the North East feel alienated from decision making in Westminster. They thought that offering a Regional Assembly would make people feel that they could have more input into decision-making in the region.
However, people could see through New Labour's slick proposal. They understood that the devolved assembly on offer would be a toothless body with no real power.
Furthermore, it would take away a tier of county and district councils across the region - an assembly would be even more remote than these bodies.
Council workers we spoke to were correctly fearful that by wiping out county and district councils there would be job losses. Yet, strangely, UNISON (the public sector trade union) were promoting a 'Yes' vote.
Undoubtedly, many who voted 'No' were worried about spiralling costs. People looked up the road to see the escalating costs of the Scottish Parliament - the Parliament building alone shot up a staggering ten-fold. Workers understood they would bear the brunt of such costs.
Perhaps the biggest reason for the large turn-out was the distrust of political parties. John Prescott became a regular visitor to the North East - his visits during the course of last year are estimated to have cost £184,143.
Workers are becoming turned off by career politicians. Many drew the conclusion - if New Labour is putting this forward it must be wrong!
In The Socialist 13 November 2004:
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