Most politicians don't have a clue about issues outside of their southern bubble

As the next election approaches, MPs think they can throw money at issues to buy them easy votes

Share

PLEASE Sir, can we have a general election every year?

George Osborne has been MP for Tatton, to the south of Manchester, since 2001. That’s 13 years in which to familiarise himself with the surrounding region; 13 years in which to acquaint himself with its appalling transport infrastructure; 13 years of clogged roads and poor, slow cross-country rail services.

Suddenly, with less than a year to go to the polls, the Chancellor has said he wants to do something about it. As if overnight, he’s turned into a Northern evangelist, talking enthusiastically about investment programmes, better links between the major cities, apprenticeship schemes, and greater power residing in the hands of elected local mayors.

Much more of this and a walk-on part in Coronation Street or Emmerdale seems a certainty. But that is precisely the problem: the feeling of a metropolitan elite having a soap opera view of a vast swathe of the country. Throw a few pounds at it, they seem to be saying, and the difficulties will go away.

Better still there might be some votes to be had. And, as this is Osborne, there’s also an opportunity for some political point-scoring: he says he’d rather be spending money this way, helping people in their working lives, hopefully attracting foreign investment, than handing it out in welfare benefits, which just encourages folk to sit at home and do nothing.

Of course, the £15bn cost of the improvements is not to be sniffed at. But it’s long overdue, will only partially address the underlying issues, and is nothing compared with the tens of billions heaped on the South-East of England in recent years.

It also displays a fundamental lack of understanding about the North.  I say that as a Northerner. Osborne is encouraging the notion of a single “powerhouse” to match London and the Home Counties; the buzz is all about “One North.”

But the cities of the North are entirely separate, each with their own identity, traditions and heritage. The rivalry between them is intense. To try and join them together in some common purpose will end in tears – wait until there really is a multinational dangling a dollop of cash, and watch how the competition for that new factory will unfold. Will Liverpool happily step back and say to Leeds, “there you go, this boost to employment is all yours, squire”? What do you think?

 

The distances between them are long, with a range of hills in-between. Imagine a plan to combine Southampton with Norwich, with London in the middle – that is the southern equivalent of uniting Liverpool with Leeds and Hull, and that is without the Pennines acting as a natural barrier. A government would never think in such terms regarding the south - yet apparently, it is acceptable to do so where the northern cities are concerned. Why?

Unlike the South-East, there is no fulcrum in the North. There isn’t a dominant city, one that sits in the middle, from which everything flows. Not at present.

Much suspicion in the North surrounds the ambition of Manchester. It already sees itself as “England’s Second City”, casually disregarding the claims of Birmingham. Revitalised by the Commonwealth Games of 2002 (memo to city planners, as well as general elections, next best must be a Commonwealth Games, assuming the Olympics is off-limits, for new buildings and roads – just ask Manchester and Glasgow), blessed with a dynamic, go-ahead council, Manchester is sweeping everything before it.

Too much of the current planning from Westminster revolves around Manchester. At the same time, too much focus is on linking the cities, as if that’s the answer – of the former industrial towns, large centres in their own right, there is scarcely any mention.

That, however, is the issue. It’s too little, too late. And having alighted on the North, why stop there? The West and East Midlands, the North-East, the South-West – they could all do with urgent upgrades. There’s an election coming and Westminster has woken up to Britain beyond the M25, but it’s nowhere near enough.

READ MORE:
Britain has taken longer to recover from recession than at any time since the South Sea Bubble
Sombre TV moments filled a day when we were reminded of how war’s lessons are never learnt

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HLTA - Higher Level Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teacher requi...

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
US Secretary of State John Kerry  

When only 4 per cent of those killed by US drone strikes are named members of al-Qaeda, it's hard to trust American foreign policy

Abigail Fielding-Smith
Countries that have relaxed sex-worker laws have seen a fall in Aids infections but no increase in street-based prostitution  

As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law

Crystal
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London