The Northern Powerhouse must bring democracy out of the shadows

Brenton Prosser, Matthew Flinders

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookOther chapter contribution


In this chapter, we consider the northern economic powerhouse project and its associated devolution deals to argue that any model of governance that does not take the people with it is unlikely to take hold, which may in turn undermine any economic benefits. This argument is based on a comparison of key elements of a statement made by the Chancellor with outcomes drawn from a Citizens Assembly held in South Yorkshire in late 2015. In particular, we argue the outcomes of this Assembly show that when given appropriate support and opportunity, citizens are able to recognise rhetoric, contest taken for granted assumptions, and engage rigorously in contemporary governance issues. What they challenge is the cynical view that citizens are not interested, willing or able to engage in complex debate, as well as the mistaken assumption that economic benefits will always trump democratic benefits in the minds of the public. We conclude by arguing that public consultation is not an obstruction to governance reform, rather, bringing the democratic potential of devolution out of the shadows can contribute to economic initiatives taking root, blossoming and growing. In short, we argue that what the Citizen Assembly’s members recognised, even if their leaders did not, was that the potential ‘feet of clay’ for the proposed Northern giant is a failure to embrace both democratic and economic foundations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Politics of the North
Subtitle of host publicationGovernance, territory and identity in Northern England (e-book)
EditorsRichard Hayton, Arianna Giovannini, Craig Berry
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
Publisher White Rose Consortium for the North of England (WRCN)
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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