The Roots of the English Regions
It is impossible to overstate the degree to which the concept of ‘regionalism’ or the boundaries of and areas covered by ‘regions’ are regarded in popular, journalistic, and most political opinion as being alien to the government of England. This fundamental fact underlies the virtual invisibility of the concept of the ‘region’ in the politics of twentieth-century England. ‘Regions’ have had only the merest of political and cultural existence since the eleventh century in England, and there is very little trace of any region-based political or cultural identity. Where regions for England have been proposed by individual or collective advocates, they have almost always been ignored, lacking ‘tradition’; where they have been used by central governments, they have been treated with indifference, as administrative blips in the traditional functionalism of British public administration. The concept of regions ‘has provided a favourite debating topic for enthusiasts and sceptics, without making any lasting mark on the system [of government]’ (Garside and Hebbert 1989:1). Regions as used in the administration of England have never included a political or identification-related dimension, being almost exclusively ad hoc responses to specific problems: ‘the key to understanding the role of regional structures in British public administration is that they are primarily concerned not with the management of territory but the delivery of functions’ (Hogwood 1995:1).
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