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People's Republic of South Yorkshire

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People's Republic of South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire following the 2015 general election. Every seat except for Sheffield Hallam (Lib Dem, yellow) is held by Labour (red).

The People's Republic of South Yorkshire or the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire is the nickname often given to South Yorkshire under the left-wing local governments of the 1980s, especially the municipal socialist administration of Sheffield City Council led by David Blunkett, used by both detractors and supporters of the councils.[1] The councils pursued a social policy radically different from that of Margaret Thatcher's national government, following more closely along the lines of Militant tendency-dominated Liverpool City Council and the Greater London Council led by Ken Livingstone.

The expression was coined by Irvine Patnick,[2][3] a Conservative councilor on South Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council and later the MP for Sheffield Hallam, although it was soon reclaimed by supporters of the council's left-wing policies.[4] Sheffield Hallam was the only seat in South Yorkshire where the Conservative Party was a significant political force, the remaining seats being Labour safe seats or Liberal-Labour marginals.[5] Sheffield City Council and the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Authority were solidly left wing, remaining socialist even as Thatcherism became the dominant political ideology in the country as a whole.

Sheffield City Council constructed large council estates with large numbers of communal blocks of flats based on the streets in the sky philosophy, most famously the Park Hill complex,[6] and the borough councils of South Yorkshire set up an extensive network of subsidised transport under the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.[7] The councils also took more confrontational steps against the Conservative Westminster government. Sheffield refused to set a budget in the rate-capping rebellion, while South Yorkshire declared itself a nuclear-free zone and a demilitarized zone.[3] The red flag flew on Sheffield Town Hall on May Day [8] and the city signed a peace treaty with the city of Donetsk in the Ukrainian SSR, at that point on the other side of the Iron curtain.[3] Both groups of policies - the practical and the symbolic - were sometimes cited as reasons for the nickname. The National Union of Mineworkers moved to headquarters in Sheffield in 1983 in the run-up to the decisive 1984-1985 miners' strike, and the area subsequently became one of the main centres of the strike.[9]

Although it lost some of its relevance following the Labour party's shift towards New Labour and the expulsion of the far-left elements of the party, along with the replacement of Thatcherism with the more moderate Majorism and Blairism, the name remains in use for the area, which is still dominated by the political left. As of the United Kingdom general election, 2015, South Yorkshire does not have a single Conservative MP, and the only seat not held by Labour is Sheffield Hallam, now held by Liberal Democrat leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.[10][11] All four metropolitan borough councils – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – are under Labour control.[12][1]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is currently suspended following the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal and the executive is in the hands of Government-appointed commissioners. However, elections were still held in 2015, at which Labour remained the largest party.

References

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