The political-economy of Blair’s “New Regional Policy”

2009-03-31T15:36:41Z (GMT) by John Harrison
The ‘region’ and ‘regional change’ have been elusive ideas within political and economic geography, and in essence require a greater understanding of their dynamic characteristics. Trailing in the backwaters of the devolution to the Celtic nations of Britain, the contemporary era of New Labour’s politicaleconomic ideology, manifest through ‘third-way’ governance in England places the region and its functional capacity into the heart of geographical inquiry. Drawing upon a new regionalist epistemology, this paper seeks to recover a sense of (regional) political economy through a critical investigation of the development and formulation of Blair’s “New Regional Policy” (NRP). I address how New Labour has attempted to marry economic regionalisation on the one hand, and democratic regionalism on the other. This paper specifically questions the wisdom of such a marriage of politically distinct ideologies through a critical investigation of the underlying contradictions of their strategy from both a theoretical and empirical standpoint. Demonstrated both in the North East no vote in 2004, and in the post-mortem undertaken by the ODPM Select Committee in 2005, the paper illustrates how a loss of political drive gradually undermined the capacity of devolution to deliver in England. Finally, I argue that through the lens of the NRP we can speculate on some of the wider issues and implications for the study of regional governance.