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: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn