The North punches below its full weight – but Corbyn won’t neglect it

5th August, 2015 8:39 am

north south

A recent report indicated that of the ten poorest regions in the whole of northern Europe, nine are in Britain.

In parts of the North the death of traditional industries has been replaced only with a service economy, warehousing and distribution. Often with these sectors has come part time working, false self-employment and temporary working or zero hours contracts.

The North deserves better. Yorkshire is bigger in terms of population on its own than Scotland. But our economy is in worse shape. The North punches below its full weight.

In the North of England, our work force is underproductive not because we don’t work hard but as a consequence of underinvestment, public and private. We are therefore underpaid compared to the average Briton. Our companies are less profitable.

If you chose to travel the mere 25 miles between Featherstone in my constituency to Halifax which is also in West Yorkshire, by public transport, it would take longer than to travel by train from Doncaster to Kings Cross a distance which is nearer to 175 miles. Increasing the speed at which we can travel to London will not improve our Northern economy unless links within the region are dramatically reformed.

These problems must be tackled. And they require radical changes in the way our country is governed as well as the way in which our economy is managed. Too many decisions are taken in London.

The Conservatives are rooted in parts of the South of England, and they are embedded in a narrow economic elite.

Their policy of devolving cuts is not the same as an empowering devolution of control. Meanwhile the decision to “pause” the electrification of the Trans Pennine rail exposes the Government’s northern pretensions.

It falls to Labour to develop the necessary radical initiatives. To kick start the creation of a new vision for the North, the Corbyn campaign consulted supporters across the whole of the area. Over 1,200 people responded. We could have asked a think tank, or a group of ‘experts’. We chose not to. Jeremy’s leadership style will be radical but transparent, accountable and democratic.

It is clear that there is deep concern amongst Northern activists about our region. And it is equally clear that only bold action can resolve the issues which we need to confront.

Regenerating the North requires regionally based institutions. We need to be governed in new ways. Equally we need a new economic settlement. For too long, much of our industry has been in decline whilst the Financial Sector profited. Finance should be at the service of all the country rather than the reverse.

These new arrangements for the governance needs to lead to investment in infrastructure (rail, roads, fibre optics etc). It means renewing industries which remain viable and equally it means developing new ones. Culture and the Arts, engineering, manufacturing and building are all in need of support. Housing is a particular concern. We would transform the housing sector by taking radical measures to build new homes to be sold and rented at affordable prices.

The North has a huge amount of underutilised natural resources which ought to be tapped. We are diligent, enterprising and committed to our region. We retain strong social values of solidarity and mutual care. But our public services are underfunded and this problem must be tackled. It is wrong for example that in parts of the region the general levels of health and mortality are amongst the worst in the country and so the NHS and social care system needs additional support.

With the publication of this document about the North, we have begun a debate. We would wish to begin the same process in other regions. If you like the contents of the report and want to comment, then please do so.

More important: If you think that the country can’t go on in the same old ways and are convinced of the need for radical change; and if you appreciate the fact that we want a bottom up style of policy development, together with an accountable leadership, then please join us.

Our country is crying out for sensible, reasonable policies which will deliver a modern, socially just Britain fit for the 21st Century.

Come and help.

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