Arianna Giovannini https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/16031/all cached version 08/02/2019 19:09:31 en Arianna Giovannini https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/arianna-giovannini-1 <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Arianna Giovannini </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Dr Arianna Giovannini is a&nbsp;<a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/people/arianna-giovannini/">Researcher at SPERI</a>&nbsp;(Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute), University of Sheffield.<br /></span><span><span>Her research interests centre on devolution, constitutional change and democracy. Currently her work concentrates on the tensions between technocratic and democratic approaches to devolution in the context of the ‘City Deals’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda, as well as on the link between territorial identity and devolution in the North. She is on Twitter @AriannaGi</span></span></p> Arianna Giovannini Wed, 11 May 2016 21:37:02 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 102016 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Behold the 'Manchester Withington question' https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/arianna-giovannini-and-andrew-mycock/behold-manchester-withington-question <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>'English Votes for English Laws' is supposed to&nbsp;answer the 'West Lothian question' – yet the&nbsp;government's English devolution policy is recreating the same question in a new form. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/525802/withington_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/525802/withington_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>(Image: Mikey, Withington Library, CC-BY-2.0)</em></p><p><span><span>Reform of the constitutional architecture of the UK state over the past two decades has adhered to a conservative orthodoxy based on an enduring belief in the British political tradition: the redistribution of power is negotiated between the state and sub-state national and regional elites rather than with the British people. As a result, the process of devolution has proven largely unplanned, piecemeal, and pragmatic, an open-ended process that lacks clarity in terms of its purpose, procedure, or extent. The introduction of English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) conforms to this approach, as does the current government’s programme of devolution within England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Proponents of EVEL argue it has been devised as a means to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’ whose principal anomaly concerns voting asymmetries within the House of Commons: MPs from outside of England are able to vote on matters that affect only England, while MPs from England are unable to vote on matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The case for EVEL appears to be founded upon the view that the natural equilibrium, long understood to successfully balance the parliamentary constitution of Westminster, has been profoundly undermined by unequal and unfair programmes of devolution undertaken by successive UK governments. It is contended that EVEL will rebalance UK multi-national governance and restore constitutional stability by limiting votes on parliamentary bills in Westminster that relate to England alone to English constituency MPs. This will in effect allow Westminster to act as parliament both to the UK and England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>However, the extension of bespoke, elite-controlled reform to England is likely to fuel constitutional instability across the UK state, further Anglicising the House of Commons (and by association the House of Lords) while also necessitating a further reordering of the UK civil service. Moreover, EVEL does not engage with on-going reforms in the other nations of the UK <em>nor </em></span><span>within England, appearing designed to operate in parallel, rather than in tandem, with other policies</span></span><span> </span><span><span>such as devolution to England’s cities and regions and the wider Northern Powerhouse agenda. EVEL’s singular focus on the constitutional anomaly related to the current imbalanced representation of England’s national voice within the UK means it overlooks the way that English national, regional, and local policy-making and governance are interconnected. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Crucially, current approaches to devolution via bespoke city regions and other territorial deals will create asymmetries in policy remit amongst MPs in different parts of England that resemble the very ‘West Lothian question’ that EVEL is supposed to put to rest. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>For example, the development of ‘Devo-Manc’ over the past year or so has devolved responsibility for some or all provision of health, social care, employment and training, and transport to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. As a result, the MPs in Greater Manchester, such as Jeff Smith who was elected for the first time in the Manchester Withington constituency, will no longer be directly responsible, accountable or able to influence formulation and delivery for these areas in Westminster. Mr Smith will however be able to continue to vote on some or all of these policy areas in other English MPs constituencies where responsibility has not yet been devolved. As such, many of the anomalies associated with the ‘West Lothian question’ could be reproduced within England through what might be described as the ‘Manchester Withington question’. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Some argue against the proposition that the ‘West Lothian question’ could be replicated within England. Perhaps contrary to what many members of the public believe, it is pointed out that all of the powers so far devolved in England belong to and are mandated by the executive branch of the UK government and are not the product of new legislation introduced via votes in the House of Commons. It is argued that as EVEL only applies to matters that are voted on in the House of Commons, it doesn’t apply to government and executive decisions. This point has merit but understates somewhat the interconnections and overlaps between parliamentary bills and government/executive decision-making. For instance, there is an explicit relationship between the current Cities and Local Devolution Bill, whose passage through Westminster would be affected by the introduction of EVEL, and the government’s on-going programme of English devolution. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><a href="http://commonslibraryblog.com/2014/11/05/does-the-west-ealing-question-exist/"><span><span><span>Mark Sandford</span></span></span></a><span><span> has argued that, unlike the devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, English city-regions have not yet been given sufficient powers to pass either primary or secondary legislation. Put simply, there will be no ‘Mancunian laws’ designed and implemented by the Greater Manchester directly-elected mayor or the cabinet comprised of the ten council leaders of the combined authority. Sandford rightly notes that </span></span>–<span><span> at present</span></span><span><span> Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 </span></span>– asymmetric regional devolution would therefore not lead to any restrictions on MPs’ ability to vote on English-only matters in the House of Commons.<span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>This situation would however be altered if the UK government devolved powers to allow regional variation in taxation rates and fiscal policy-making. Recent policy announcements indicate that the government is willing to countenance regional and local asymmetry in taxation. The devolution of responsibilities to set and collect business rates in England announced in October 2015 will allow local authorities to cut these rates while only elected mayors in London, Manchester, Sheffield and other city-regions will be allowed to increase them. It is likely that as further fiscal powers are devolved, demands from local and regional for secondary legislation powers will gain currency. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>However, there is more to the ‘Manchester Withington question’ in reality than that issue of parliamentary principle. It is likely the ‘Manchester Withington question’ will encourage deterioration of relations between MPs within the House of Commons as asymmetries in the remit and influence of English elected-representatives intensify. Resentments will coalesce on questions of funding and resource allocation, policy design and delivery, and the coherence and uniformity of welfare and other public services. National, regional, and local cleavages within and between union-wide political parties will also escalate and solidify. MPs will be increasingly placed in a position where they must compete for authority and influence with newly-empowered local-regional elites. The Greater Manchester city-deals provide a good snapshot of this nascent ‘politics of new English regionalism’, with some Labour MPs publicly raising concerns about the </span></span><a href="http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/news-opinion/split-loyalties-labour-riven-over-8728654"><span><span><span>process</span></span></span></a><span><span>, </span></span><a href="http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/nhs-cash-deal-greater-manchester-8762999"><span><span><span>transparency</span></span></span></a><span><span> and </span></span><a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/02/real-devolution-has-come-public-consent-not-whitehall-diktat"><span><span><span>democratic-accountability</span></span></span></a><span><span> of ‘Devo-Manc’. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Emerging arenas of contestation will likely be driven by territorialism and identity that will redefine the tone and tenor of political debate both within the House of Commons and in local constituencies. However, the ‘Manchester Withington question’ is likely to prove even more complex than its ‘West Lothian’ counterpart. The Conservative government is currently in the process of agreeing uneven and bespoke deals across England with no consistency in the nature or extent of the devolution of powers. This means that English MPs will have their responsibilities cauterised to differing extents, further undermining the national consistency of EVEL. The government’s urgency in introducing EVEL denies England the time afforded Scotland to debate and vote on its constitutional future. The lack of a strategic and coherent vision of the extent of devolution across the UK and within England is therefore likely to not only increase competition and conflict between an ever more Anglicised Westminster and the other nations of the UK but also with English regions and localities. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>So, behold the Manchester Withington Question. It will require an answer.</span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/gerry-hassan/english-votes-is-sheer-political-vandalism-and-fundamentally-changes-britain">‘English Votes’ is sheer political vandalism and fundamentally changes Britain</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/graham-smith/experimenting-with-citizens%E2%80%99-assemblies-in-uk">Experimenting with citizens’ assemblies in the UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/alex-connock/northern-owerhouse-switch-on-power">Northern Powerhouse: switch on the power</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk Power where? Nations, regions, cities Rethinking representation Great Charter Convention Andrew Mycock Arianna Giovannini Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Arianna Giovannini and Andrew Mycock 97483 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Devolution in the North of England: time to bring the people into the debate? https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/arianna-giovannini/devolution-in-north-of-england-time-to-bring-people-into-debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The referendum in Scotland is creating impetus&nbsp;for a redistribution of power within England. But&nbsp;who will determine the shape of this - Westminster, local elites or local citizens? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span> </span><span><span>In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, the ‘English Question’ has gained new political traction, emerging as one of the most crucial issues underpinning the debate on the future of the Union. In spite of its result, the Scottish vote has certainly shed light, with a renewed emphasis, on the presence of a growing democratic deficit across and within the </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>nations of the UK, and in particular in England. This, in turn, has triggered a new interest both within political elites and the wider society on the role and place that England should have in the context of an increasingly decentralised UK.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>For the for the first time,</span><em><span> all</span></em><span> the main traditional parties have overtly embraced the narrative of the English Question – putting it at the core of their political discourse, and offering alternative ways to address it. The Conservatives have proposed the introduction of ‘</span></span><a href="https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/Files/Downloadable%20Files/THE_FUTURE_FOR_ENGLAND.ashx"><span><span><span>English Votes for English Laws</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ as a means to tackle the West Lothian Question. At the same time, they have also sketched a ‘new regional agenda’ for England, advocating devolution to create a ‘</span></span><a href="http://press.conservatives.com/post/98719492085/george-osborne-speech-to-conservative-party"><span><span><span>Northern Powerhouse</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ to boost economic development in the north of England and also proposing the introduction of directly </span></span><a href="http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9459912/george-osborne-interview-smaller-government-is-not-enough/"><span><span><span>elected mayors in northern cities such as Manchester</span></span></span></a><span><span> (with others to follow) if the party wins the 2015 general election. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Meanwhile, the </span></span><a href="http://b.3cdn.net/labouruk/3045a507f6e7c957b9_wam6i6611.pdf"><span><span><span>Labour party</span></span></span></a><span><span> has argued that there is need for a ‘constitutional convention’ to consider the future governance of England within the context of the UK more widely. However, the party has also reiterated its belief in City Regions, a policy first mooted in the wake of the 2004 North-East regional assembly referendum defeat – stating that it will pass an ‘English Devolution Act’ if elected into government, giving more powers to City and also County regions, and replacing the House of Lords with an elected Senate of the Nations and regions to work as a forum for regional representation. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats are showing a commitment to devolve greater powers to the local level, as reflected in their support for a </span></span><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31739267"><span><span><span>Cornish Assembly</span></span></span></a><span><span>, and through the ‘</span></span><a href="http://www.libdems.org.uk/northern_futures_project"><span><span><span>Northern Futures</span></span></span></a><span><span>’ project. And yet, the growing popularity of minority parties in England indicates the emergence of a more complex political landscape. The rapid rise of UKIP in the European elections as well as in by-elections across England shows how the party has the </span></span><a href="http://www.ippr.org/publications/england-and-its-two-unions-the-anatomy-of-a-nation-and-its-discontents"><span><span><span>potential to become a </span><em><span>de facto</span></em><span> English nationalist force</span></span></span></a><span><span>, likely to exploit any grievance within the devolution debate to present England as the ‘victim’ nation of the Union.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Interestingly, however, this time round mainstream parties are not the only actors trying to influence the agenda on English devolution – as shown by the recent growth of new regionalist parties, especially in the North of England. English regionalist parties may not be an entirety new phenomenon. The </span></span><a href="http://www.regionalist.net/"><span><span><span>Wessex Regionalists</span></span></span></a><span><span> have been around for a while; and, despite its claim that Cornwall is not a region but a nation, </span></span><a href="https://www.mebyonkernow.org/"><span><span><span>Mebyon Kernow</span></span></span></a><span><span> is in practice ‘regionalist’ in its approach, as reflected in its support for a Cornish Assembly, rather than full independence. What is certainly new, though, is the emergence of regionalist parties in the North of England, i.e. </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirefirst.org.uk/"><span><span><span>Yorkshire First</span></span></span></a><span><span>, the </span></span><a href="http://www.thenortheastparty.org.uk/"><span><span><span>North East Party</span></span></span></a><span><span>, and the </span></span><a href="http://www.campaignforthenorth.com/"><span><span><span>Campaign for the North</span></span></span></a><span><span>. These parties share common regional devolution claims, arguing for the establishment of a Yorkshire Parliament, a North East Assembly and a pan-Northern Assembly respectively. They also seek to politicise regional identities, taking inspiration from the example of Scotland. In spite of having been formed just over the past year and a half, they will all fight the May 2015 general election, fielding candidates across the North of England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Although </span></span><a href="http://www.ippr.org/publications/england-and-its-two-unions-the-anatomy-of-a-nation-and-its-discontents"><span><span><span>the public </span><span><span>&nbsp;</span></span><span>long showed a lack of interest</span></span></span></a><span><span> on issues of decentralisation for England, this trend too seems to be reversing. Sensing the strength and traction of devolutionist agendas in contemporary politics, and their growing resonance amongst the public, the BBC ran a series of programmes exploring the issues involved in the autumn of 2014. Similarly, regional newspapers have also focused on issues of regionalism and decentralisation, as illustrated for example by the </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/community/time-for-mps-to-start-flying-the-flag-for-god-s-own-county-1-7158261"><span><em><span><span>Yorkshire Post’s</span></span></em><span><span> recent publication of a ‘Yorkshire Manifesto’</span></span></span></a><span><span> in view of the 2015 general election.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>All these points clearly illustrate the saliency not only of the English Question in general, but also of its </span><em><span>regional permutations </span></em><span>— pointing towards a form of ‘new regionalism’ which seems to be taking a particularly Northern flavour. The regions of the North, in fact, are at the forefront of the current debate on the future of territorial governance and decentralisation in England. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>The key themes and questions underpinning the narrative of this nascent ‘Northern regionalism’ were unpacked and discussed at length in a symposium held at the University of Huddersfield (co-sponsored by the </span></span><a href="http://www.hud.ac.uk/research/researchcentres/criss/"><span><span><span>Centre for Research in the Social Sciences</span></span></span></a><span><span> and the </span></span><a href="http://www.psa.ac.uk/events/decentralisation-and-future-yorkshire"><span><span><span>Political Studies Association</span></span></span></a><span><span> and organised by the </span></span><a href="http://www.psasgb.co.uk/"><span><span><span>Britishness Specialist Group</span></span></span></a><span><span>) on the 13</span><span>th</span><span> of February: ‘</span></span><a href="https://www.hud.ac.uk/news/2015/february/decentralisationandthefutureofyorkshire.php"><span><span><span>Decentralisation and the Future of Yorkshire</span></span></span></a><span><span>’. Although, as its title suggests, the event focussed on the specific case of Yorkshire, the debate gave rise to a number of important reflections that apply to the whole North of England, and can also serve as a basis to put the wider English Question in perspective.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>One of the key issues at stake concerns the need to extend discussion on English devolution beyond the ‘closed circle’ of Westminster and mainstream party politics – opening up to local and regional stakeholders, and giving voice to the grassroots. Put simply, none of the plans proposed by the mainstream parties can succeed if they are not accepted ‘from the bottom’. This links to another very important and yet often underestimated point, i.e. that regional </span></span><a href="http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/ed-cox-devolution-for-the-north-must-go-all-the-way-1-7106337"><span><span><span>devolution in the North of England should not just be about reviving economies</span></span></span></a><span><span>, so as to address the North-South divide, but also about </span><em><span>improving democracy</span></em><span>. For the most part, the underlying message in the current regional and city regional agenda seems to be that devolution will lead to economic renewal for the regions ‘lagging behind’. And yet, this is only one side of the coin – because to really flourish regional economies need to be nurtured from the bottom, through a system of governance which is ultimately accountable to the people, and not only to Westminster. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>From this angle, the regionalist parties that are emerging in the North of England have a great potential, especially if they succeed in joining forces with civil society organisation and movements, mobilising grassroots support and pushing for the creation of some form of ‘Northern Constitutional Convention’ capable of influencing decision and policy-making at the centre. In this sense, there is a great deal that can be learnt from Scotland, and in particular from the experience of the Scottish Constitutional Convention. The most obvious one is that effective regional devolution requires concerted efforts from the centre </span><em><span>and</span></em><span> from the bottom, so as to engage in a constructive dialogue on how to build a more democratic and accountable system of governance that can ultimately improve people’s life. In a social climate characterised by increasing levels of political disenfranchisement, the example of Scotland shows that accountable decentralisation can be an effective way to restore the relationship between the public and the wider political system – bringing decision and policy-making closer to people and, in this way, putting people back into politics. </span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>But concerted discussion is also needed to establish the level(s) at which powers should be devolved, and to develop a constructive relationship between different layers of government. One of the most striking aspects in the current debate on devolution in the North of England is that the main actors (local governments, leaders’ boards, political parties, business organisations, etc.) seem to work in isolation – each devising their own plans, often irrespective (or wary) of the positions of the others. This climate of ‘mutual suspicion’ hinders decentralisation from within, and should be changed so as to transform the current competing discourses of city-regions, regions, elected mayors and local authorities into a ‘virtuous narrative’ able to inform a consistent and non-redundant new regional architecture.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Finally, looking north of the border offers also insights on the potential implicit in the politicisation of regional identities – especially in regions such as Yorkshire and the North East, with a long tradition of cultural, political and historical distinctiveness. After all regions, like nations, are imagined communities too (although ‘thinner’ and less bound to the concept of self-determination). Hence, they can be constructed, exploiting shared regional traits and values and </span><em><span>forging</span></em><span> a community that simulates the archetypical principle for political organisation, i.e. kinship. However, as Scotland shows us, such a process does not necessarily have to be founded on ethnic principles, which could lead to some form of ‘exclusive’ political identity/ community. On the contrary, regional identities in the North of England could be mobilised as part of an </span><em><span>inclusive</span></em><span> political project that seeks to nurture shared civic and democratic values and bonds – a plan that ‘speaks to the people’ and aims at actively involve them in the construction of a better future for their region. This could provide the foundations to build a notion of the North as a coherent and meaningful political space – and is perhaps one of the greatest challenges ahead.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><p><span><span>Thus, whether regional devolution in the North of England will succeed or fall may well hinge on the ability to generate ‘democratic momentum’, creating a clear, bold, confident and concerted vision for the future. However, the story of the Scottish Constitutional Convention also tells us that such a process will take time, and cannot be rushed or accomplished overnight. In this sense, the following months and the results and effects of the imminent general election (as well as the way in which both regionalist and mainstream parties will react to these) will be crucial in shaping the path ahead.</span></span></p><p><span> </span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Great Charter Convention (1).jpg" alt="" width="140" /></a> </p><p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/great-charter-convention">The Great Charter Convention</a> – an open, public debate on where arbitrary power lies in the UK today and how we should contest and contain it.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> uk uk A constitutional convention Power where? Nations, regions, cities Building it: campaigns and movements Rethinking representation Great Charter Convention Arianna Giovannini Thu, 26 Mar 2015 00:11:11 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 91420 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arianna Giovannini https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/arianna-giovannini-0 <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Arianna Giovannini </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Dr Arianna Giovannini is a </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/redir.aspx?C=MZw3gh9mWUyLAsggShb-nEQJ6ak9ONII4-ziguFbracV0qvtvjga0GAO4nbt9W7mEcFFhQBlFcs.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.hud.ac.uk%2fourstaff%2fprofile%2findex.php%3fstaffuid%3dshumag6" target="_blank"><span><span>Lecturer in Politics at the University of Huddersfield</span></span></a><span>. </span><span><br />Her research interests include the politics of territorial identity, </span><span>regionalist and nationalist parties/movements, </span><span>decentralised forms of government and constitutional change, in particular in the UK and Italy. Her current research focuses on English devolution, and the rise of regionalist parties in the North of England. She is a member of the PSA's </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/redir.aspx?C=MZw3gh9mWUyLAsggShb-nEQJ6ak9ONII4-ziguFbracV0qvtvjga0GAO4nbt9W7mEcFFhQBlFcs.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.psasgb.co.uk%2f" target="_blank"><span><span>Britishness Group</span></span></a><span> and co-convenor of the PSA's </span><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/redir.aspx?C=MZw3gh9mWUyLAsggShb-nEQJ6ak9ONII4-ziguFbracV0qvtvjga0GAO4nbt9W7mEcFFhQBlFcs.&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fitalianpolitics.blogspot.co.uk%2f" target="_blank"><span><span>Italian Politics Specialist Group</span></span></a><span>.</span></p> Arianna Giovannini Sun, 22 Mar 2015 15:36:56 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 91448 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arrivederci, Veneto? https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/arianna-giovannini/arrivederci-veneto <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What was behind the "unofficial" referendum on Venetian independence? Why was it so popular? And could we soon be saying <em>arrivederci</em>&nbsp;to Veneto?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/4341013.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/4341013.jpg" alt="Demotix/Antonio Melita. Some rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demotix/Antonio Melita. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>The independence referendum held in Veneto between the 16 and 21 of March adds to a growing list of struggles for territorial autonomy within established nation states and advanced democracies in Europe. As is well known, this year <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/collections/scotlands-future">Scotland</a>&nbsp;will go to the polls to decide whether it becomes an independent country. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-26598832">Crimea</a>&nbsp;has also&nbsp;recently made the headlines for its sudden desire to secede from Ukraine and re-join Russia – a decision supported by a landslide victory in a recent, if contested, popular referendum.</p><p>And yet, in many respects, the Veneto independence referendum cannot be directly compared to these cases. In the first place, the referendum was unconstitutional and defective. According to the Italian Constitution (Article 5) “the Italian Republic is one and indivisible” – which, put simply, means that no referendum could ever be lawfully called to question or change this principle.</p><p>Another issue concerns the way in which the political group <em><a href="http://www.venetostato.com/wordpress/">Veneto Indipendente</a></em> managed and organised the referendary ballot, mainly through the web platform <em><a href="http://www.plebiscito.eu/">plebiscito.eu</a></em>. Unlike other cases in Europe, in fact, the result was not legitimate because the vote followed unconventional rules&nbsp;– i.e. people could cast their vote online, via telephone or at polling stations&nbsp;improvised in town squares across the region. Hence, when the organising committee declared with enthusiasm that the referendum was won with an overwhelming majority (89%, with nearly 2,5 million votes cast), many politicians and commentators hurriedly shelved the issue, arguing that the vote was only hypothetical and not verifiable, and therefore null.</p><p>Moreover, the political movement behind the referendum is neither a strong nor a coherent political force. <em>Veneto Indipendente</em> (and the so-called ‘Venetists’) brings together a number of small and fractious autonomist groups and ‘leagues’, which over the years have never managed to coordinate their forces to create a credible agenda or gain any real political clout. As a consequence, the Venetists and their claims have never been taken seriously by the Italian political class.</p><p>In spite of these flaws, there are several reasons that explain why the Veneto Independence referendum should not be discarded as a trivial matter. First and foremost, the vote reflects the presence of widespread feelings of malaise and dissatisfaction in the region, which were successfully channelled by Veneto Indipendente. This is confirmed by the findings of a survey conducted on the 20 and 21 of March by the Italian Research Centre <a href="http://www.demos.it/">Demos&amp;Pi</a>, and published by the political analyst <a href="http://www.demos.it/diamanti.php">Ilvo Diamanti</a> in the daily <em><a href="http://www.repubblica.it/politica/2014/03/24/news/l_indipendenza_del_veneto_non_uno_scherzo_bocciato_lo_stato_centrale_no_alla_politica_locale-81734444/?ref=HRER2-1">La Repubblica</a></em>. </p><p>The research draws on a representative sample of the electorate of the Veneto Region. The <a href="http://www.demos.it/a00970.php">results</a> show a downsized and yet very significant picture of the referendum outcomes. Interestingly, nearly half of the Veneto electorate claim to have voted or to intend to vote in the referendum, and 78% of them are in favour of the referendum question (i.e. “Veneto should be an independent and sovereign republic”). This view is also shared by one third of those who said they did not intend to vote.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto1_0.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="376" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="459" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p>Overall, the majority (55%) of the electors included in the sample are in favour of Veneto becoming an independent and sovereign republic, whilst 39% are against this option. This is very important data, which shows the presence of a wide (although maybe not purely <em>plebiscitarian</em>) support towards independence across the region.</p><p>In addition, the results of the survey help to understand the social profile of those who favour the independence option. The bulk of support comes from businessmen, entrepreneurs and manual workers – who represent the traditional social fabric of the region. On the other hand, the idea of a sovereign republic of Veneto is less popular among the younger generations and students. This seems to suggest that independence is endorsed in particular by the ‘older generations’, i.e. by those who have worked hard to make the region prosper, and are now hit hard by the economic crisis and the austerity measures of the central government. </p><p>From this angle, they perceive independence as a way of changing the state of things – taking ownership of Veneto and its future from the bottom, bypassing <em>Roma ladrona</em> (‘Rome the thief’ is a popular slogan of the Northern League).&nbsp;Furthermore, it is interesting that independentist views are particularly popular&nbsp;among right-wing voters in the region (i.e. Forza Italia, 80%; the Northern League, 87%; and of course other autonomist parties/movements, 99%) as well as among supporters of Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement (55%). </p><p>Politically, Veneto has long been a centre-right stronghold – although recently the 5 Star Movement has attracted a growing number of votes in the region, signalling a mounting sense of disengagement towards mainstream party-politics in general and the Northern League in particular. Unsurprisingly, only a minority (34%) of supporters of the centre-left and the Democratic Party (that is leading the current coalition government) are in favour of independence.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="393" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/veneto4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="362" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><br />So what emerges from the findings of this research is an image of Veneto as a region with a growing sense of detachment towards the institutions of the Italian State, and its political system. These anti-politics feelings provide fertile ground for a form of secessionist populism of a regional nature, which has been effectively exploited by the Venetists. In exploring the nature and the reasons for the success of independentism in Veneto, it is therefore essential to understand the roots of this anti-politics and populist drift, and its potential consequences.</p><p>Firstly, the Veneto independence movement is not based on any overtly ethnic claim. Although some references are made, for example, to the use and promotion of the regional language, cultural heritage is not seen as the primary issue at stake in the quest for independence. Instead, the predominant cleavage in the narrative of the Venetists is of an explicitly economic nature. In this sense, the distinctive values of the region are not purely cultural, but they refer to hard work and productivity – traits of which the Veneto population is particularly proud, and that are key in defining its territorial identity. </p><p>In fact, Veneto is one of the wealthiest and most productive regions in Italy – which contributes considerably towards the national GDP, and that as a consequence, contributes more taxes to the national coffer than other areas. These, however, are then redistributed across the country, so as to support the regions lagging behind (e.g. the southern areas). </p><p>Such a trend is not new, but in the context of the recent economic crisis and the subsequent austerity measures, most of the small and medium enterprises in Veneto feel that the Italian State has tightened its stranglehold on them, and that they give much more than they receive. In the wake of these feelings, taxation (and a resolution to achieve total fiscal exemption) has been <em>the</em> leitmotif of the Venetists’ campaign.</p><p>Centre-right political parties had previously taken this case on board, promoting measures of fiscal decentralisation that intended to relieve the burden placed on Veneto (and other productive regions in the north of Italy). In particular, in the past few decades, much of the success of the Northern League (NL) drew on its political claims for fiscal devolution, which gained the party votes in regions such as Veneto and Lombardy.&nbsp;<span>Its experience in government with Berlusconi’s People of Freedom aimed at ‘bringing to Rome the issues of the North’, and the creation of a system of&nbsp;fiscal federalism was the flagship policy of the Northern League’s agenda.</span></p><p>However, once in public office, the party did not go far in this plan – showing its inability to contribute to change and influence the centre in the interest of the North. Besides, throughout the years, some of the NL’s key figures, including its founding father and former leader <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/sep/17/italy-north-umberto-bossi">Umberto Bossi</a>, were involved in cases of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/apr/04/northern-league-italy-corruption-allegations">political corruption</a> – much to the detriment of the party’s image as an alternative to the mainstream politics of the centre. These factors played a role in creating a critical gap between the party and its electorate, based on a feeling that neither the NL nor the centre-right are capable of delivering, leaving the needs of Veneto unanswered. This was clearly reflected in the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2013/feb/25/italian-elections-results-interactive-guide">results of the 2013 general election</a>, in which the NL managed to get only a fistful of votes, with considerable losses in its strongholds (i.e.gaining a mere 10.5%, with a loss of -16.6%, in Veneto). Tellingly, the rising star of the Northern League and governor of the Veneto region Luca Zaia, with his unfailing flair for the pulse of the region, has promptly endorsed from outside the case of independence, possibly in view of the next election when he may jump off the derailing wagon of the NL, and create his own civic list.</p><p>The recent success of the independence movements in Veneto grafts precisely onto&nbsp;this crisis of the Northern League, combined with a widespread perception that the&nbsp;region has been exploited and ignored by the centre for way too long. Hence, it can be argued that the Venetists have successfully filled the political void created by the decline of the party – and the independence referendum has provided a means to voice the discontent of the citizens of Veneto that had previously been mobilised by the Northern League.</p><p>This suggests that, no matter how inflated or unverifiable, the results of the independence referendum in Veneto should be taken very seriously – because they provide a clear picture of the state of exasperation in local society. For the population of Veneto, independence claims constitute a way of exposing and denouncing, in an extreme way, their disquiet with the central State, and their dissatisfaction with the political class and the government both at national and regional level.</p><p>These feelings might be particularly pronounced in Veneto but, as the results of the 2013 general election clearly demonstrated, they are echoed also across the whole country. Therefore, the main political parties and the government should not discard the independence referendum as a farce. The Venetists are already joining forces with other regions (e.g. Sicily and Sardinia) to promote the organisation of other independence referenda – with a potential to fuel further centrifugal and autonomist claims across the country.</p><p>Waving the flag of independence does not necessarily mean that Veneto wants to (or will) secede from Italy in the near future. As Demos&amp;Pi’s research shows (see figure 4) what the people of Veneto really want is a more efficient political class, capable of tackling the most pressing issues that affect the region. Hence, the independence referendum should be understood as a ‘cry for attention’ on the part of the people of Veneto, which is directed towards the wider Italian political system and institutions.</p><p>What remains to be seen is whether the Italian parties will prove capable, this time,&nbsp;of undertaking this challenge in an effective way, before events escalate. A clear&nbsp;example of the risks at stake is provided by a <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/02/italy-arrest-veneto-separatists-plot-tank">recent plan</a> developed by an extremist wing of the Venetists, and thwarted by the Italian police on the 2nd&nbsp;of April, to deploy an armoured vehicle in San Marco Square in Venice on the eve of the European elections in May. From this angle, the EU vote will certainly be a measure of the magnitude of anti-politics sentiments not only in Veneto but in the whole country – and also an important test (or wake up call) for the Italian political class.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/fernando-betancor/la-serenissima">La Serenissima</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/leonardo-goi/lega-nords-last-temptation-anti-politics-in-time-of-grillo">Lega Nord&#039;s last temptation: anti-politics in the time of Grillo</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Italy </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? Italy Arianna Giovannini Spotlight on Italy Joining the dots on independence movements in Europe Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:18:14 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 81140 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arianna Giovannini https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/arianna-giovannini <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Arianna Giovannini </div> </div> </div> <p><span>Dr Arianna Giovannini is a&nbsp;<a href="http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/people/arianna-giovannini/">Researcher at SPERI</a>&nbsp;(Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute), University of Sheffield.&nbsp;</span><span>Her research interests centre on devolution, constitutional change and democracy. Currently her work concentrates on the tensions between technocratic and democratic approaches to devolution in the context of the ‘City Deals’ and ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda, as well as on the link between territorial identity and devolution in the North. She is on Twitter @AriannaGi</span></p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Dr Arianna Giovannini is a Lecturer in Politics at the University of Huddersfield. Her research interests include the politics of territorial identity, regionalist and nationalist parties/movements, decentralised forms of government and constitutional change, in particular in the UK and Italy. Her current research focuses on English devolution, and the rise of regionalist parties in the North of England. She is a member of the PSA&#039;s Britishness Group and co-convenor of the PSA&#039;s Italian Politics Specialist Group. </div> </div> </div> Arianna Giovannini Mon, 07 Apr 2014 16:00:36 +0000 Arianna Giovannini 81154 at https://www.opendemocracy.net