Wednesday, August 13, 2008
We're all gannin' "darn sarf!"
"Ee were a grand baker, were our dad..."
A remarkable piece in today's Telegraph about a report from David Cameron's favourite think-tank Policy Exchange.
Apparently the Tory boffins have concluded that it's all too hopelessly ghastly "oop North", and the best that can be achieved now is for us to leave our whippets and pigeons behind and decant to London, Oxford and Cambridge.
Let's leave aside for a moment whether those cities would want three million extra housing units, a sizeable proportion of which would have to be in the green belt. Particularly as we still keep coal in the bath.
And, difficult though it may be for southern policy wonks to understand, actually the vast majority of us love living in the North, having a quality of life which far exceeds the miserable South East.
What's telling is what this report says about the metropolitan Tories' instincts towards the great former industrial cities. Cameron's Notting Hill set had ambitions to make significant political progress in the North and North East, but generally have failed to make their mark. Ironically, Sunderland, picked out in the report as one of the places we should be fleeing from, has one of the healthier Conservative groups. This report has given my Labour colleagues plenty of ammunition to use against hapless Tory candidates at the next elections.
For as the introduction to the report states (thanks to Iain Dale for this)
"Ministers in the current Labour Cabinet overwhelmingly represent inner city areas. A future Cabinet, perhaps more representative of suburbs and the wealthy South East, may not have the same commitment to high levels of regeneration funding, particularly if economic circumstances demand a squeeze on public spending."
So vote Tory, and see the plug pulled on regeneration schemes across the North, or in fact anywhere which hasn't bought into Cameron's slick brand of Conservatism.
Policy Exchange has, I think, rather let the cat out of the bag.
More misery for David Cameron and local Tories in the Northern Echo's leader column this mroning. It concludes,
"Mr Cameron was left with no option but to distance himself from the report. compiled by what has been widely reported as his favourite think-tank. After all, the "abandon the north" message is hardly in keeping with his new, all-inclusive, cuddly form of Conservatism.
But the storm which has blown up by Policy Exchange has served as a reminder of the way regions such as the North East were shamefully neglected under previous Conservative administrations - and how a decade of regeneration under Labour has made a tangible difference.
Indeed, Mr Cameron's comment during a visit to Carlisle yesterday that "Conservative Party policy will continue the good work of regenerating cities right across England" sounds suspiciously like an endorsement of the Government."
Final word - there's a long, worthy piece by various outraged northern writers in the Guardian today - Stuart Maconie quoting Tennyson, you know the sort of thing.
However, can I recommend the always excellent dailymash which has definitively nailed the story...