Is it time to revisit Home Rule for East Anglia?
- Credit: Archant
There are a number of reasons East Anglia region might be better off with autonomous government... and here are just a few of them.
There are the roads, for a start. Where is the smart, three-lane motorway linking East Anglia to the rest of Great Britain? At the moment it is dependent on a scruffy A12 that starts off as dual carriageway at the M25 and diminishes to a single carriageway north of Ipswich, straggling along into Norfolk, there to be swallowed up by the A47. But wait. There are always the trains... or buses passed off as trains.
For some, East Anglia might be regarded as 'quaint'; a part of the country unspoiled by the ingress of a developed nation's burgeoning infrastructure with the result it remains a rural idyll. For those who have daily to travel its byways, something with less character might be preferable.
When it comes to apportioning money between regions, East Anglia is a net loser. The 2015/6 figures for government expenditure per head per region, shows the East receives the second lowest amount at 10 per cent below the UK average. Only the renownedly wealthy South-East gets less.
In Catalonia, Spain, there has been unrest over the question of independence. Demonstrations by Catalan separatists two weekends ago, were a week later countered by a gathering of those who want Spanish unity. Both sides of the argument have been passionately expressed and the debate goes on.
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Would a move to create an autonomous East Anglian government arouse similar passions? I suspect not, we tend not to get agitated around here. And yet East Anglia has much to commend it as an entity.
It used to be a small independent monarchy known as the Kingdom of the East Angles comprising the North Folk and the South Folk. It was formed in the 6th century in the wake of the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Britain. Ruled by the Wuffingas in the 7th and 8th centuries it was vanquished by Mercia in 794 and then the Danes in 869 before being incorporated into the Kingdom of England in 918. Instinctively, one imagines, that the 'good ol' East Anglian boi' or 'gal' wasn't much bothered by these goings-on, being, by nature, unflappable. But while the laid-back indigenous East Anglians may not be much flustered by reasons for independence, there are good reasons to consider it.
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For instance, it has its own legitimate patron saint in the martyred King Edmund... as opposed to the all-England St George who wasn't English, is unlikely to have slaughtered a dragon and probably never even visited these shores. By contrast, it is believed Edmund was king of East Anglia for around 14 years. The legend is that he was beaten, shot with arrows and beheaded by the Danes when he refused to renounce Christ.
With the right credentials already in place, St Edmund could immediately be adopted as the undisputed patron saint of the state of East Anglia.
Like American states (I am guided here by Texas) we could then have a state flower, bird, motto, flag, tree, song, mammal, dog, dish, fibre/fabric, fruit, gem, insect, nut, musical instrument, ship, snack, vegetable... and that's just a selection ? though we may have to create a category for the Suffolk Raft Spider, I don't think Texas has a state arachnid.
As a region that historically prospered from the woollen industry, wool has to be its fabric and maybe a swede (as in Suffolk swede) for a vegetable and dumplings (as in Norfolk dumplings) for a state dish.
Commercially, East Anglia has one of the biggest container ports in the Europe at Felixstowe and it also has a lot of wind... not personally, but weatherwise. There is a long and beautiful coast and swathes of open countryside, which means the region is well placed to harness wind power.
Innovation in agriculture has opened up many opportunities to those who cultivate the land - saffron in Norfolk; lentils in Suffolk; the wondrous Little Scarlet strawberry in Tiptree, north Essex (Wilkin and Son).
Other huge attractions of East Anglia are tourism and culture. We have broads, beaches, nature reserves, stately piles, parks, forests, racecourses and championship football. The region has produced and been home to world-famous artists, sculptors, musicians, dancers, choreographers, actors and writers.
It was the birthplace of people of such historical stature as Horatio, Lord Nelson; Elizabeth Garrett Anderson; Elizabeth Fry and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.
The Independent State of East Anglia... it has a certain ring.