If only we could have an election now some Tory politicians might be thinking as they begin their summer break. A new born prince, the heatwave and cycling and cricket success have given our spirits a boost. Most important of all there is a feeling that the economy is turning even in the North which always lags behind the South East because of successive governments’ failure to have an effective regional policy.
House prices are edging up here and jobs are being created in the private sector to help absorb the haemorrhaging of public employment. In that connection the news from Bentley in Crewe that they are to build the company’s new sports utility vehicle enhances the North West’s successful car industry alongside Vauxhall at Ellesmere Port and Jaguar Land Rover at Halewood.
The key man in all this is the Chancellor George Osborne. He rivals the Prime Minister in importance when it comes to trying to stear the Tories to an outright victory in 2015. This is partly because of his power over economic decision making but also because of his central role in political strategy. For this reason Labour call him the part time Chancellor. It is a foolish charge. It makes sense to have Osborne tied closely to political decision making.
It is Osborne’s belief in concentrating on the main issue of economic recovery that has led to the ditching of “peripheral” issues like plain packet fags and a minimum price for alcohol. Lynton Crosby, the Tory party advisor has taken the hit for this regrettable U turn, but the Chancellor will have been involved.
I recently took the opportunity to observe George Osborne up close. He was giving a lecture in memory of that great broadcaster and champion of the North Brian Redhead. To the Chancellor’s credit, he spoke a lot about Brian and didn’t use the occasion for a bog standard political message.
He acknowledged the importance of having a northern constituency (Tatton). He told us his daughter had just been made Rose Queen at her school at Wildboarclough in Cheshire and that he was aware that things looked different from a northern perspective. That was certainly Brian Redhead’s view, Mr Osborne told his audience He missed out on the editorship of the Guardian because he refused to move south with the paper. For a long time he co-presented the Today programme from Manchester until being forced to join his colleagues in London. I used to join him on the train north on a Friday and he always said he was glad to be coming home.
Osborne concluded by observing that the North was not a monolith and should not be stereotyped. Although Redhead had worked in Manchester, he was born in the North East and lived in the Peak District. The Chancellor claimed that Cheshire had more private sector jobs than London.
It was an interesting and different sort of speech from a man that it is not easy to warm to. What will matter in the next two years however is not being liked but keeping the economic recovery going as interest rates begin to rise.
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