How Tony Blair torpedoed elected regional assembly
I have been reading an excellent new book by Joyce Quin, a senior Labour figure from the North East. It's published by Northern Writers and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in politics.
It is well written exploring the changing British constitution, interlaced with episodes from Baroness Quin's long political career bringing the issues to life.
One such example is how Tony Blair's inaction helped scupper the elected regional assembly vote in 2004.
In her new book, the former minister said Labour decided to move "much more slowly" on English regional government than in Scotland and Wales - apart from in London.
"There was little doubt that Tony Blair himself was unwilling to deliver quickly on regional government within England and that he was unconvinced by the arguments for it," said Baroness Quin.
She added this was in tune with the "Whitehall machine" fearing loss of power and relocation of civil service jobs.
The issue became a "hesitant, second-term issue" despite John Prescott's support and regional campaigns - with the assembly proposals far more limited than offered to Scotland, Wales or London.
Baroness Quin said this paved the way for an "unholy alliance" of opponents to devolution and those who wanted more powers given to the region.
And the timing of the referendum could not have been worse, she said.
The euphoria of Labour's first term had evaporated with the Government unpopular over the Iraq War - with the vote providing the opportunity for the electorate to give it a "bloody nose".
"Secondly, the Government itself seemed half-hearted about the idea. The Prime Minister, a North East MP, had never pushed it and was almost entirely absent from the campaign.
"It seemed odd that John Prescott, however ardently he personally supported the issue, had to be drafted in from outside the region to raise the issue with the voters.
"Furthermore, he did not get the support from the national party machine in terms of campaign organisation, strategy and sheer hard work that was necessary," said Baroness Quin.