Dan Jarvis will today set out how Labour should lead the way on ideas for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and reclaim the agenda on devolution. In a speech in Sheffield this afternoon, the Barnsley Central MP will say that label George Osborne a “cowboy” for failing to deliver on his “builders” rhetoric.
Today’s speech is the latest sign that Labour figures see devolution as a core issue for the party to rebuild support on. Jarvis’ intervention comes after the launch of Labour Together in recent days, and a joint statement from Jeremy Corbyn and Kezia Dugdale last night, which proposed more autonomy for Scottish Labour as part of a new plan for devolution.
Jarvis will accuse Osborne of having no clear strategy for rolling out devolved powers, leading to “devo-disarray”. He will say:
“As many as 38 different cities and regions have submitted bids for more powers within the past month. Yet there is no clear strategy, still no definable boundaries for how far the powerhouse might extend or how the pieces will fit together.
“We’ve seen Ministers turning backwards and forwards on the electrification of the TransPennine railway. And this week we’ve seen the Government unveil plans for a North East powerhouse after weeks of acting like spectators as steelworks in Redcar and Scunthorpe face going to the wall.
“When we see a further 40% of unfair cuts to local government coming down the track – with the greater burden set to fall on more deprived communities in the North – it is right to question whether the Government is only interested in devolving blame rather than real power.
“George Osborne told the Tory conference a few weeks ago that they were ‘the builders’ but this is a cowboy effort. The Chancellor needs to do much more to show that his powerhouse rhetoric will be matched by reality.”
Jarvis says he has made a submission to Lord Adonis’, recommending they produce a review of the North/South infrastructure divide, which he describes as “an independent assessment that can map out regional priorities, informs long-term planning, and help ensure that local decisions are integrated with national interests”.
He will also encourage Labour not to offer “opposition for opposition’s sake” on the Northern Powerhouse, saying the party can “lead the debate” on the issue:
“Labour can offer more on this issue than opposition for opposition’s sake. More than just easy politics. We can do better than that and I believe the public expect us to do better than that.
“This devolution debate represents perhaps the greatest opportunity to remake the State and give more power to communities for a generation. And it was a debate that Labour started.
“I don’t want to spend the next five years rubbishing the idea of a Northern Powerhouse. I want Labour to lead the debate about how we build it and shape it according to our values.
“George Osborne has said that he is not sure if his plans will work. Our job is to make sure that they work for the many, not just the few.”