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The UK cabinet - a spatial analysis

by Gary J Tue Jul 3rd, 2007 at 05:20:13 AM EST

Historically it has not been very important which part of the UK a minister comes from. However in the new age of devolution and regional ministers the spatial dimension may become more important.

I have analysed the newly appointed Brown cabinet. It should be noted that in the UK it is not unusual for an MP to represent an area they do not come from originally. In particular politicians of the left from southern England have long migrated north to get a safe seat in Parliament. However for present purposes MPs will be attributed to the region in which their constituency is located. Peers are associated with the area the long form of their title refers to (ie Baroness Ashton of Upholland 'of St. Albans in the County of Hertford').

For details see below the fold. However to summarise the position.

  1. East of England: 13 Labour MPs out of 56. One peer and no MPs in cabinet.
  2. East Midlands: 25 MPs out of 44. 1 cabinet member.
  3. London: 44 MPs out of 74. 1 cabinet member (the elected Deputy Leader of the party).
  4. North East England: 28 MPs out of 30. 1 cabinet member.
  5. North West of England: 61 out of 76 MPs. 7 members of the cabinet.
  6. South East of England: 19 Labour MPs out of 83. 1 member of the cabinet.
  7. South West of England: 13 MPs out of 51. No member of the cabinet.
  8. West Midlands: 39 out of 59 MPs. 1 cabinet member.
  9. Yorkshire and the Humber: 44 out of 56. 4 members of the cabinet.
A. (England as a whole 286 Labour MPs out of 529. 17 cabinet members.)
B. Northern Ireland: 0 out of 18 MPs. Not surprisingly no members of the cabinet.
C. Scotland: 41 out of 59 members. 4 members of the cabinet (including Prime Minister Brown).
D. Wales: 29 MPs out of 40. 1 member of the cabinet.

Overall the representation is biased towards northern England and Scotland. In particular the two largest English cities, London and Birmingham (in West Midlands region) although returning many Labour MPs seem to be under-represented in cabinet. There also seems to be no attempt to build up leaders in Labour's weaker regions in southern and eastern England.

From the diaries by afew


Prime Minister: Gordon Brown (MP from 1983), represents Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath (Scotland)

Chancellor of the Exchequer: Alistair Darling (MP 1987) Edinburgh South (Scotland)

Foreign & Commonwealth: David Miliband (MP 2001) South Shields (North East)

Home: Jacqui Smith (MP 1997) Redditch (West Midlands)

Health: Alan Johnson (MP 1997) Kingston upon Hull West & Hessle (Yorkshire & the Humber)

International Development: Douglas Alexander (MP 1997) Paisley & Renfrewshire South (Scotland)

Work and Pensions/Wales: Peter Hain (MP 1991) Neath (Wales)

Culture: James Purnell (MP 2001) Stalybridge & Hyde (North West) - new member of the cabinet

Trade & Industry: John Hutton (MP 1992) Barrow and Furness (North West)

Communities: Hazel Blears (MP 1997) Salford (North West)

Justice: Jack Straw (MP 1979) Blackburn (North West)

Leader of the Commons (Party Chair and Deputy Leader): Harriet Harman (MP 1982) Camberwell & Peckham (London) - returned to cabinet after a period out of it.

Environment: Hilary Benn (MP 1999) Leeds Central (Yorkshire & the Humber)

Schools & Children: Ed Balls (MP 2005) Normanton (Yorkshire & the Humber) - new member of cabinet

Defence/Scotland: Des Browne (MP 1997) Kilmarnock & Loudoun (Scotland) - only person to have same jobs in the Blair and Brown cabinets

Cabinet Office minister: Ed Miliband (MP 2005) Doncaster North (Yorkshire and the Humber) - new member of cabinet

Chief Whip: Geoff Hoon (MP 1992) Ashfield (East Midlands) - returned to cabinet after a period out of it

Leader of the Lords: Baroness Ashton of Upholland (peer from 1999) (East of England) - new member of the cabinet

Innovation, Universities & Skills: John Denham (MP 1992) Southampton Itchen (South East) - new member of cabinet

Northern Ireland: Shaun Woodward (MP 1997 - Conservative until 1999) St Helens South (North West) - new member of cabinet Also Transport: Ruth Kelly (MP 1997) Bolton West (North West)

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So, has there been any public reaction to the composition of this cabinet? Particularly in light of its northern trending?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 09:47:32 AM EST
One of the most important things about Blair's legacy will eventually be the botching of devolution and the resulting rise in English nationalism, mostly resentful, which didn't use to exist before. I have seen opinions expressed in readers' letters to newspapers that Brown has no legitimacy to make decisions for England because he's Scottish and Scotland has its own parliament.

This resentment has a lot to do with the Scottish National Party being to the left of New Labour, and the Tory party being nearly nonexistent in Scotland so that the Scottish get a better deal from the NHS than the English do. I am sure there are other aspects of this.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 09:52:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment has tended to be Scottish v English members of cabinet. I have not noticed any discussion of the distribution of cabinet posts between English regions.

I was surprised how marked the northern (particularly north western) bias was, when I worked the situation out.

The cabinet, compared to Blair's last, is slightly less Scottish and slightly more northern English. The members who left the cabinet were Blair (North East), Prescott (Yorkshire and the Humber), Reid (Scotland), Jowell (London), Armstrong (North East), Beckett (East Midlands), Hewett (East Midlands), Lord Falconer (East Midlands) and Baroness Amos (London).

by Gary J on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:09:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are we talking about North England MPs who were parachuted into safe constituencies from the South East?

Because, in that case, the Northern bias is only apparent.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:31:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Are we talking about North England MPs who were parachuted into safe constituencies from the South East"?

To some extent. An example is Alan Johnson who is a Londoner, with a constituency in Hull, East Yorkshire. Shaun Woodward has a large estate in Oxfordshire (when he was a Conservative he represented the same South East region seat David Cameron now holds).

I imagine a Conservative cabinet would probably show some bias to southern and eastern England. I have not done the exercise, but I remember there was some comment about the number of Cambridgeshire and East Anglian MPs in John Major's cabinet.

Extending the analysis to where the MPs really come from would be quite difficult. In any event most of them live in London, most of the time.

by Gary J on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:59:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recently read a pre-First World War book on proportional representation. One of the points the author made, discussing the effect of introducing proportional representation in Belgium, was that leading politicians who had formerly had to move to represent areas favourable to their party so as to be in Parliament; could now return and be elected from their home districts.
by Gary J on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 11:05:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, great.

Politicians who don't even have to pretend to give a damn about the people they represent...

by Sassafras on Tue Jul 3rd, 2007 at 04:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting information, but after the ignominious failure of Prescott's North East region vote the whole subject of regionalisation is essentially dead for England (excepting maybe the People's Republic of Kernow aka Cornwall).

I've been a fly on the wall (a group I am a member of has facilitated a pretty high-powered Commission considering the subject) in respect of some very interesting stuff re devolution and the future of local government.

Policy focus is turning to the concept (sounds awful) of "Functional Sub-Regionalism".

ie devolution of powers functionally to the lowest possible level and the use of local and regional partnerships of councils etc, not of the bullshit PR version, but actual cooperation in practice.

http://www.actvar.gov.uk/

is one of the best examples of what can be and is increasingly being done.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 09:58:49 AM EST
"Functional Sub-Regionalism" to me sounds like devolution to the Counties. If the Counties were then allowed to come together to form regions England could end up carved up into regions in less than 10 years, as happened in Spain (see here).

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:07:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What Brown has actually done is appoint ministers (outside the cabinet) for English regions (like Nick Brown for Northern England).

The English, having been convinced that elected assemblies are bureaucratic whilst central government politicians and civil servants are democratic, are presumably going to get executive devolution of the sort Scotland and Wales enjoyed before devolution.

Watch this space for Brown's great constitutional "reforms", which would have been discussed by the cabinet at its second meeting if the terrorists onslaught had not brought about the end of civilisation as we knew it.

by Gary J on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 10:17:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The English, having been convinced that elected assemblies are bureaucratic whilst central government politicians and civil servants are democratic...

This one meme on its own is the source of many bad things. Overturning it would do a huge amount of good.

But it's a tough problem to solve, because I think dealing with the reality means dealing with the very limited levels of democracy in the UK. And many people would prefer to stay in denial about the real shape of UK (now mostly English) politics than accept just how badly they've been disenfranchised.

I think this may be one of the roots of racist extremism. The racists may not be nice, but they have a voice and they seem to have populist engagement.

They've managed to paint themselves as bottom up rather top down politicians, and to many people that seems like an attractive prospect.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 12:07:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily. Several of the regions - "South East" is a classic - are purely arbitrary and incoherent.

A bit like Iraq, really.

On the other hand, one or two (like Cornwall) are reasonably good candidates for a coherent region carrying out virtually all functions, others most certainly are not, which is why functional partnerships have sprung up.

What works for transport, may well not work for health or education etc etc

And we haven't even discussed the question of "cultural" identity, where Cornwall scores high, and the South East low...who would go to the barriers for the South East?


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 12:38:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say the resulting regions would be the same as those designed from Whitehall.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 03:15:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But my point is that "regions" will often differ in relation to the function being carried out.
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Mon Jul 2nd, 2007 at 03:23:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A similar analysis could be done by county and city (which are levels of government with more popular affection). On that basis Lancashire is over-represented, but London and Birmingham are under-represented.
by Gary J on Wed Jul 4th, 2007 at 06:10:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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