Here my “fantasy politics” piece for the Liberal Britain “2030 Vision” competition which has now closed and been judged, though the results have not been announced yet. As I say, a bit of fun really. It’s about “sovereign localism” and sharing the rents, and about how central government is a thing of the past, for running empires by packet post on clipper ships.
Liberty Day 2030
The midnight fireworks augured more than another passing year. Since the phrase “Independence Day” had been forever tainted by “Brexit” campaigners in June 2016, January 1st 2030 became “Liberty Day”: the day the new constitution of the Confederation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland took effect.
It had been traumatic, with the country threatened with chaotic break up as people realised that what they had been sold as “taking back control” simply passed power to an unrepresentative Westminster designed for and still assuming a long gone Empire.
Prime Minister Davis, who inherited the Toxic Tory Throne 12 years after his defeat by Cameron, inadvertently paved the way for this settlement. As a northern MP leading Brexit negotiations that never looked able to satisfy different regional UK economies, and ever increasing debt to pay for “freedom”, he offered further devolution to the “Northern Powerhouse” cities in return for slashed central spending.
Liberal Democrats stormed to retake Liverpool in 2020 on a manifesto of establishing a free-port city. Having recently seen regeneration enhance the city centre, they pressed for land tax to replace local taxation, recovering billions from the city’s large landowners. As neighbours saw this drew new investment and business a corridor of “city regions” developed across the middle of the country able to finance their own infrastructure projects and creating a gateway to Europe for goods flowing in through newly resurgent Liverpool.
Once plagued by threats to their “green belts” these cities soon found the land tax enabled community land trusts to develop quality, high density green and technologically advanced neighbourhoods on abandoned and underused land. Community rent sharing schemes started to provide a basic income for residents replacing declining support from Westminster. Falling housing costs nurtured thriving day time communities where residents could participate more in cooperative education and social care.
Inspired by Liverpool’s pioneering renewable generation capability and rapidly developing solar technology, this super-region was soon energy independent. With this local “empowerment” they started negotiating separately with Brussels. Even Brexit Hull eventually joined them, forcing local MP Davis to resign when civic leaders across the region threatened to boycott the 2025 General Election.
With “Remain” Tory MPs ground down by the endless negotiations continuing to threaten the economic prosperity of “jewels” like Oxford, Cambridge and the City of London, the Northern Revolt was prevented by a promise of a National Government and Constitutional Convention. As economic activity was attracted to the Northern Powerhouse, the ensuing settlement agreed a national system of land and resource rents replacing income and corporate “treadmill” taxes, most distributed to each resident as an annual dividend. As the new primary level of governance, the city regions were to precept into this to provide locally controlled public services.
May 2030 was to see the first elections from the sovereign city-regions to a much reduced federal Westminster with powers limited to issues on which regions chose to collaborate. This would be a New Year to remember!