Big investment in the north of England is smart politics and sound economics. Now for other deprived areas too

 

Share

It was not so very long ago that a Tory-sympathising think-tank wrote off the cities of the North of England – recommending that they be more or less run down, with their inhabitants encouraged to move to the somewhat overcrowded South-east. Thankfully, this sort of extreme economic Darwinism is out of  fashion, and the Chancellor is to be congratulated on playing his part in burying it as he lays the foundations for a new “northern global powerhouse”.

As a north-west constituency MP (unusually enough for a Tory), George Osborne may appreciate better than most the political as well as the economic dividend his ambitions could bring. If it is a piece of crude electioneering we shouldn’t mind so much; after all, politics is about listening to the needs of all the people, and the Conservative Party will never be able to win a convincing majority unless it can once again win seats in the more prosperous districts of Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds. As the resignation of Baroness Warsi neatly encapsulates, Mr Osborne’s party has a problem with women, with ethnic minorities and with northern voters. At least on the last point the Tory leadership is starting to take bold action.

Like a schoolboy with a new train set, Mr Osborne is exploring all sorts of new locomotives and rolling stock to connect the North with the South, as well as with itself. HS2, which has attracted its share of selfish opposition in the comfortable counties and suburbs of southern England, is a brave project for a Conservative-led government to push through. Expanding Heathrow is a still more hazardous exercise – and will require the election to be out of the way before it is started – but that too will help the North and the Midlands, if the proposed “Heathrow spur” to HS2 is completed. Nor are the sums involved especially frightening; some £15bn spread over 15 years represents a small proportion of investment spending as a whole, and requires only a small boost to growth to pay for itself. It is the sort of public-sector project that Tories used to deride Labour and the Liberal Democrats for suggesting. Now they are showing a more pragmatic streak, perhaps as a result of the financial crisis, which proved that a nation is asking for trouble if it relies on one city and one industry – the City of London and banking – for its livelihood.

All that said, such grandiose projects must not come at the expense of smaller-scale, targeted investments that can yield surprisingly large returns across the nation – such as attending to rail and road bottlenecks, making cosmetic improvements to Heathrow’s tired older terminals, or retaining public-transport subsidies on neglected rural lines. The North has more clout than it sometimes realises and it has started to use it. At the same time, even more deprived parts of the UK, such as the North-east and South Wales, should not be neglected. Nor should poorer districts of London, parts of Cornwall and other places not usually associated with hardship be outshone by the trendy claims of Liverpool and Manchester.

Even if everything promised by the One North group and its new friend in the Treasury materialises and meets their most optimistic expectations, some attention to persistent unemployment in Wales and the North-east would also pay dividends.

In any event, who would have thought a One North initiative would win such a warm “One Nation” response, from a Conservative Chancellor whose name is a byword for cuts? Might we see Mr Osborne touring the permanently depressed Welsh valleys and declaring “something will be done”? Let’s hope he has in mind more pleasant surprises.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat