Local newspapers from across the north of England launched a campaign this week to demand more power and investment into the region.
It is a timely intervention as the much- trumpeted Northern Powerhouse appears to have lost momentum and is increasingly being seen as a marketing brand rather than the vehicle that will be used to help rebalance the UKs economy.
If further proof were needed that the wind has gone out of the sails of the initiative since the heady days of George Osborne’s Powerhouse launch five years ago then surely it has come in the form of the Conservative Party leadership contest.
The MP who inherited Osborne’s constituency seat of Tatton, Esther McVey, has said nothing about the subject. Front-runner Boris Johnson has proclaimed his scepticism over the most important infrastructure investment that has been promised to the north, HS2.
It is a depressing state of affairs and although we have to accept that the current internal debate within the 120,000 ‘strong’ Tory Party is almost entirely dominated by Brexit, there must come a time when those who wish to take residence in 10 Downing Street tell us what they think about the wider issues facing the country and indeed signal their attitude towards what was, up until very recently, a government flagship policy – devolution.
The only contender who appears to have any interest in the wider regional agenda is perhaps the only one who has a realistic chance of defeating the former London mayor Johnson.
Midlands MP Sajid Javid has expressed support to get the Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine back on track. Let’s hope that in the coming weeks he can shift the Tory leadership debate from the banal platitudes, soundbites and the ‘B’ word we have heard so far, onto issues that will impact on business and the economy – Brexit or no Brexit.
I applaud the northern newspaper fraternity for their initiative. Business leaders recently got behind the campaign for HS2 investment. Its time for the wider business community to get their voice heard and ensure that the new Prime Minister knows the north and the Midlands will not be ignored any longer.
Whilst the Conservative Party is busy selecting its new leader following the most disastrous period of government performance and leadership we have witnessed in modern times, the official opposition is basking in the Tory misery and looks set to romp to victory once a General Election is forced, which is likely to be sooner rather than later.
Well, that should be the case. However, as the ‘robust’ Parliamentary Labour Party gathering proved this week, the comrades are far from happy and haven’t been kidded by the slenderest of victories in the recent Peterborough by-election.
Those loyal to ‘JC’ have resorted to the usual tactic of suggesting that any criticism of their glorious leader from within the party is treacherous. Strangely enough, blind loyalty to the party leadership was not the approach Mr. Corbyn took when he was on the backbenchers serving under the premierships of Messrs. Blair and Brown.
Hypocrisy aside, Corbynistas must accept that it is absolutely the job of Labour MPs and members to hold its leadership to account and ask the very simple but important question ’If we’re not winning big now, when will we win big?’
At best a Corbyn-led Labour Party may scrape enough seats to form a very unstable and unholy coalition with smaller parties. I’m sorry, but at this stage of the political game against the shambles that they are up against, Corbyn and his colleagues need to be doing much, much better than that.