A lot of people have asked me what I think about Gordon Brown’s blockbuster reform this week. They then go on to ask whether Labour should be meddling with devolution and promising to reform the House of Lords when people can’t pay their bills, get an ambulance or get a police visit after a burglary?

The truth is that you can’t solve economic problems without solving political ones. You can’t level up places’ economies without levelling up their powers. That was basically the premise of Michael Gove and Andy Haldane’s Levelling Up White Paper (released earlier this year believe it or not).

But nobody cares, right?

Now of course, if you ask the average voter their priorities, constitutional reform will be fairly low down. Somewhere below gas bills, antisocial behaviour, and potholes, if at all. As former Labour MP Tom Harris wrote in The Telegraph that people don’t care about this “constitutional tinkering”.

Here’s a novel thought: governments should sometimes do things that people don’t care about. Most people don’t care about most areas of public policy. But the means by which this country governs itself does happen to impact people’s everyday lives: from the delivery of public services, to people’s sense of place and nationhood, and their faith in democracy and institutions. Starmer should be commended for taking this question seriously. And the Brown Commission is a serious piece of work, which should be seriously engaged with.

What’s the big idea?

There are 40 proposals in all. In summary, they’re focussed around giving more powers to more places, focussing on regional inequality, “cleaning up” politics and replacing the House of Lords.

A lot of the ideas are far from new. Replacing the House of Lords was in the Labour manifesto in 1910. Moving 50,000 Civil Service jobs out of London? It’s not as if nothing like that has ever been done before.

But the fact that an incoming Labour government would extend existing frameworks, and the fact that this isn’t a world away from the Levelling Up White Paper, is to the Brown Commission’s credit. Endless policy churn has stood in the way of proper regional policy for too long. The time for creating and renaming and scrapping institutions and agencies, only to create them again, is over. So, Labour are right to build on ‘Levelling Up’, if the government actually leave much to build upon. And, if they can build some more durable changes to the British constitution – like they did when they devolved to the nations last time they were in government – we might actually get somewhere.

Labour should not underestimate the political difficulty of getting something like Lords reform or a replacement through Parliament. It was a bugbear of Brown’s own government, Blair’s before and the Coalition after. But this report perhaps comes at a good time for those who want to see the Lords sent packing. The most likely outcomes of the next election are currently, in order: a Labour mega-landslide, a Labour landslide, a comfortable Labour majority, and a Labour deal with the Lib Dems. All of those will have a mandate for Lords reform.

So whilst this report is not officially Labour policy, it gives a picture as to what the likely next government plans to do. Businesses and campaigns need to understand the decision-makers and influencers within and outside Westminster and Whitehall. Give me a call and join us at our Devo 3.0 Symposium on Good Devolution for Good Growth on the 19th January to get to grips with what it really does mean!