Sure let’s give the North a boost – but not by creating more layers of government

This government seems to think you can legislate the way to economic success


The European Union’s attitude towards referendum results appears to be contagious. That’s what George Osborne’s speech in Manchester seemed to signify with his call for Northern cities to have directly elected mayors like Boris Johnson.

I presume he meant “like London” rather than “like Boris”, for as charismatic as he is I am not sure the country could take packs of tousled blond mayors making quips about wiff-waff and breaking into Latin.

It was only back in 2012 that the idea of another layer of government was firmly kicked into touch by the voters in the North; the promise of a single voice speaking for a post code firmly rejected as people said they were quite content with a borough council, a county council and an MP to represent them, not to mention their MEPs in Brussels, thank you very much.

Because along with ignoring clear signals from voters about their opinions, this government also seems to think you can legislate the way to economic success: the opposite is true.

Mr Osborne seems to think that an elected mayor can solve all the ills of an area. But while we can see that Boris was undoubtedly an asset during the Olympics he has had no power to protect the City of London – the lifeblood of the capital and a huge tax revenue resource – from dangerous legislation from Brussels. The campaign may have a figurehead but the bite is toothless.

So why would the northern cities do an about-turn on their previous decision when there have been no fundamental changes in accountability or power-wielding?

We can see from the turnout for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections that just because a position is created doesn’t mean the public either understand what they are there for or wish to involve themselves in the process.

READ MORE: What is David Cameron playing at? His anti-EU stance is totally irresponsible

I know from my county of Kent that we would rather not have this additional public office, which has only really created headlines for local newspapers. Crime has risen 10 per cent in the county and there are no rights of recall which further removes power from the hands of the people. I believe that had people voted on whether they wanted a system of Police and Crime Commissioners they would have said no. Perhaps that is why they were not asked?

So what is the motivation for George Osborne to promote a cause which has already been rejected, and announce it along with a new high-speed rail line – dubbed HS3 – when HS2 shows the huge divisions between the people and politicians? Unusually for a politician, that wasn’t a rhetorical question. It is my belief that streamlined governments, transparent decision-making processes and a huge bonfire of regulation to make places business-friendly is what will rejuvenate northern towns. A glance at the state funding of some of these areas shows that government intervention has done nothing to revitalise manufacturing (though lower energy prices would help) and unemployment is still considerable.

But it’s also not as if London is the model of success, with house prices still rocketing and beyond the reach of the majority, the ghettoisation of communities, and inner-city schools with terrible problems which have yet to be overcome.

Rather than more politicians, what we need is a radical overhaul where the public sector does not drive decision-making and politics is not a career choice for a 20-year-old but something that people with different life experiences choose to go into. In short, I’d say we need fewer people on the state payroll, Mr Osborne, not more.

READ MORE: Pride 2014: I'm glad I was born gay

Plain packaging? Keep it under wraps

Plain packaging is an anti-smoking crusade too far and one which will backfire on the do-gooders who have been pursuing it. Data obtained by The Australian showed that in 2013, the first full year of plain packaging in that country, people purchased 59m more cigarettes than they did the year before! In addition, the British Medical Association voted for a ban on anyone born after 2000 to purchase tobacco products at all: Will this also be extended to alcohol and doughnuts?

I know of quite a few women in their late 20s and 30s who have told me of their delight at being asked for ID when making a purchase, but should these new rules be brought in it could result in the laughable situation of tax-paying adults being asked to prove their date of birth even if they are clearly over 18.

For the first time I sense a real kick back. I have spoken to quite a few MPs who say the proposals are outrageous and they will not be supporting them. I hope they stick to their guns on this: plain packaging is a gift for counterfeiters and helps to fund organised crime across the world. I’d rather stop that than a few adults making up their own mind about their health.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a campaign visit to Chris Sedgeman Scaffolding in Penzance  

General Election 2015: With not long to go, all the main parties need to up their game

Ian Birrell
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions