Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is marking St George’s Day with a formal acknowledgement of the "continuing role of England’s traditional counties in the political and cultural life of the nation."
A significant number of counties were “administratively abolished” by Edward Heath's Government in the Local Government Act 1972. That means in a bureaucratic sense Cumberland, Huntingdonshire, Westmorland and Middlesex ceased to exist. I was pleased Rutland was later revived.
Today's announcement offers encouragement to local residents to continue to champion such local identities, irrespective of current tiers of local administration.
The announcement follows the abolition of the “artificial” Government Office Regions, based on European Union’s “NUTS1” administrative boundaries.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“The tapestry of England’s counties binds our nation together. This Government has binned the arbitrary Government Office Euro-Regions, and instead, we are championing England’s traditional local identities which continue to run deep.
“Administrative restructuring by previous governments has sought to suppress and undermine such local identities. Today, on St George’s Day, we commemorate our patron saint and formally acknowledge the continuing role of our traditional counties in England’s public and cultural life.”
Rupert Barnes Vice-Chairman of the Association of British Counties added:
“The counties are the basic tapestry on which countless generations have made their lives. They have shaped our identities and our view of ourselves and have remained a constant throughout centuries of change to become a vital part of British culture, geography and heritage.
"The counties predate any transient lines drawn for convenience or administration and predate the kingdom itself, rooted in history and cultural identity, so that the ancient counties are of the people not of the state. Statutes on administration have respectfully left the ancient counties alone. This pattern of the counties brought down to us through the centuries then is the pattern around which the nation has grown and grown great, and worthy of celebration."
The announcement is "symbolic." Of course there are also many tangible ways that the historic county names could be revived – on road signs and in postal addresses.
Will other politicians support Mr Pickles in this crusade? What about Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London? Or should I say Mayor of Middlesex?