Simon, a good mate of mine, has asked me to write a brief history of the regional story as far as I understand the subject. So, here goes...
As far as I can make out, "regions" in England go back as far as the Second World War when they were considered a useful concept. These were not the regional assemblies/development agencies we are currently concerned about. In the 1970s, Britain joined the Common Market and what we now know as the EU drew up a map of Britain - with Scotland and Wales intact and England broken up into separate regions.
The Tory Government set up regional offices - but these were not the regional assemblies we now know.
With the arrival of New Labour in 1997, devolution was rolled out. Scotland was granted a national parliament - the likes of Gordon Brown had signed a Scottish Claim of Right back in 1988. "Scotland is a proud, historic nation," proclaimed Scot Tony Blair. Wales was recognised as a nation for the first time ever with a national assembly. And work began on rolling out devolution to Northern Ireland.
In England, Welsh deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was keen that England should be broken up into regions as quickly as possible. The counties would disappear, and something very akin to the EU map of the early 1970s would take England's place on the UK map. EU maps began to appear omitting the name "England", replacing it with "regions of the European Union".
Whilst Scotland and Wales forged ahead with their nationally representative bodies, England fell behind. The Barnett Formula, a system created by Lord Joel Barnett in the late 1970s, continued to ensure that public spending in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales was much higher than in England.
MPs from Scotland overturned the votes of English MPs, ensuring that England got foundation hospitals and university top-up fees. Whilst Scotland got neither.
In 2004, a referendum was held in the North East of England, the area thought to be most open to the prospect of a regional assembly. 78% voted against it. This did not deter the regional agenda - it simply slowed it down a little. But the process continued with the regional assemblies New Labour had already put in place dictating to the electorate as unelected bodies.
The future for our ancient counties looked grim as New Labour regionalised our ambulance and fire services - again without consulting the electorate.
The argument for parity for England was ignored by New Labour. Wherever possible, England was referred to as "Britain" by MPs. One election slogan used by New Labour differed slightly across Britain: in Wales it went: "Wales, Forward Not Back"; in Scotland: "Scotland, Forward Not Back"; in England: "Britain, Forward Not Back".
Muddy the waters, confuse the electorate, that was the idea...
Concerns were raised that Gordon Brown, set to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister, had no mandate to govern England. He talked prettily of education, health and other things - all devolved areas in his own constituency in Scotland. This man would not be accountable to us on a whole range of central issues! And his constituents needn't give a toss because what he chose to do on the domestic front in England would not affect them at all.
Recent polls have shown that up to 67% of the electorate in England want a national English parliament to take care of their country, in line with Scotland.
However, arrogantly ignoring the wishes of the electorate, Brown's first action on succeeding Blair has been to formally dismantle England by appointing ministers for the artificial regions created by John Prescott. These regions will do nothing to answer England's needs. Health apartheid, the West Lothian Question and the Barnett Formula will all continue. And different areas of what was once England may soon be at each others' throats. Whilst the Scottish Raj in Westminster sits pretty. Divide and rule by the "UK" parliament. Non-accountable rule. A dictatorship. Scots imperialists aided by English quislings.
That, as I understand it, is the story so far...