Here is a section of our own ConservativeHome Manifesto, published last year, titled “A Northern Growth Strategy”.
“London is a vitally important asset to the British economy, but we musn’t forget that England alone has two of the world’s greatest conurbations.
The cities of the north have been undervalued and disempowered for far too long. Unlike comparable cities in America, Germany and France, England’s ‘core cities’ under-perform the national economy as a whole. Merely raising the core cities to average levels of productivity would amount to the single most important UK growth and jobs opportunity of the 21st century.
The key to realising this potential is connectivity – transport and communication links that boost local productivity and attract investment. This is true not only of conurbations that are centred on a single major city, but also of those with multiple centres like Germany’s Ruhr valley and Holland’s Randstad.
There is no reason why the northern conurbation shouldn’t be as well connected as London is. For instance, the distance between Manchester and Leeds is about the same length as the Piccadilly Line…It is time to overturn the London-centric mentality that fails to recognise the untapped potential that lies within other parts of the country.”
Now here part of the Conservative Manifesto for this election, called “We will rebalance our economy and build a Northern Powerhouse.”
“We are committed to a truly national recovery, benefiting all parts of our country. We have devolved powers to Scotland and Wales, and set out long-term economic plans to raise the growth rate of all parts of England, bringing areas which have grown more slowly up to at least the national average.
Over the last year, the North grew faster than the South. By connecting up the North with modern transport links, we will enable its great cities and towns to pool their strengths. We will invest a record £13 billion in transport for the North. We will electrify the main rail routes, build the Northern
Hub, and provide new trains for the North.
We will upgrade the A1, M62, M1 and A555 link road. And that is on top of our £50 billion commitment to build High Speed 2 – the new North-South railway linking up London with the West Midlands, Leeds and Manchester – and develop High Speed 3 to join up the North.
We will back scientific and technical strengths by creating new institutions such as Health North; the Royce Institute for Advanced Materials in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield; the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation in Newcastle; the Cognitive Computing centre at Daresbury; and by making investments in energy research in Blackpool, Cumbria and Thornton.”
This site isn’t a fan of the high speed projects, but in all other respects we have nothing but praise for the way George Osborne has seen and grasped the northern challenge.
The Chancellor understands the need for transport, educational and techonological link-up in the north; sees that it is best done with elected mayors; appreciates that these will only have legitimacy if they have new, real, local power – and is helping to turn theory into practice in Manchester, where healthcare and social services are to be joined up.
He also gets the electoral problem that the Party faces in northern urban areas, which the project is helping to address – to Labour’s discomfort. We hope that Osborne returns to the Treasury – but, if he doesn’t, the Northern Powerhouse is an idea that will return even if Ed Miliband wrecks it (against the instincts and wishes of the more progressive Labour local authorities, such as Greater Manchester).
Socialist centralism doesn’t work, and part of the Chancellor’s achievement is to have worked the Northern Powerhouse ideal through the Treasury. Mentions in dispatches to Greg Clark, who has done a lot of the hard grind on localism more broadly, and to Neil O’Brien, formerly of Policy Exchange, who now works in the Chancellor’s team.