Blaby believed it converted Dalyell

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Indy Politics
The Leicestershire town of Blaby was more than a little perplexed yesterday to find itself at the heart of Labour's internal wrangle over devolution.

"I have some rethinking to do," Tam Dalyell had admitted after 40 Labour activists explained they favoured devolution not just to Scotland and Wales but to regions of England. And although he later maintained the Blaby meeting had not changed his views, most of those who attended it believed Mr Dalyell was about to make a brave about-face. Middle England had sent a Scotsman home to think again.

"I think it was a frank admission," said David Radford, a Leicestershire Labour county councillor . "Tam genuinely had not realised that people involved and local authorities in England want their own elected regional assemblies.

"We're not looking to break up the United Kingdom - we do look to Parliament in London to have overall responsibility - but the East Midlands needs a degree of regional government. We want some power over taxation like used to belong to local government.We are only 100 miles from London but I don't think our voice is heard."

Other constituency members said that the weakening of local government, the concentration of power at Westminster and the development of the quangocracy has exacerbated the need for constitutional change.

If Blaby's reaction surprised Mr Dalyell, it shocked Ralph Innes, the constituency's political education officer, who is staunchly against regional assemblies. Mr Innes invited Mr Dalyell to address a regular constituency meeting after meeting him in a taxi at Labour's Blackpool conference. That was long before John Major made the subject a national debate, and the meeting "snowballed".

Yesterday Mr Innes, who had believed Mr Dalyell to be a kindred spirit, had not undergone any similar conversion. "The views of the constituency are not the views of the grass roots voter," he said. This was backed up by John, the barman at the George, who said: "Being from the East Midlands isn't like being from Scotland. What do we need a regional assembly for?"