Bernard Ginns: Government needs more self-made men and women

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IT’S ALWAYS good to get feedback from readers on the fruits of my labour in the service of God’s Own Country.

Just last week a correspondent phoned to comment on my work, so inspired was he by a “cheap, populist and unnecessary” article in our pages.

I have filed the praise in my treasury of appreciations, which as you can imagine is quite substantial in size by now.

More seriously, I do value comments on my journalism and in that vein was pleased to hear from Kevin Hollinrake MP on Thursday afternoon.

He is the co-founder and chairman of Hunters Property and the newly elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Thirsk, Malton and Filey.

I know Kevin from 2011 when he donated his time and energy to become a judge and mentor in the Local Business Accelerators scheme to support ambitious young companies in Yorkshire.

Last week, we reported on the news that York-based Hunters is intending to float on the Alternative Investment Market early next month with the estimated price tag of £17m.

We led the online version of the story on the size of the stake to be held by Mr Hollinrake, which is set to be around £2.5m.

He took issue with this angle, contending that the forthcoming IPO of Hunters is “a success story for Yorkshire and the North of England”.

I pointed out the number of multi-millionaires in Government is a matter of legitimate public interest.

Mr Hollinrake hit back: “I have been poor and I have been better off. I don’t think it’s affected my ability to represent people because I have made a success of my life.”

He has a fair point. While there are plenty of high-net-worth politicians in Government whose upbringing and lives bear no resemblance to the people they supposedly represent, Mr Hollinrake is the son of a milkman who dropped out of a physics degree to start work at an estate agency chain.

Nearly a quarter of a century after co-founding Hunters, he is set to become chairman of a publicly quoted company.

I am sure our readers will agree that having more self-made men and women from ‘ordinary’ backgrounds in Parliament is healthy and sends out positive messages about aspiration and hard work.

Mr Hollinrake is not the only milkman’s son in Westminster. Greg Clark MP, who I know of old, is another.

But once they get there, can MPs do to improve social mobility? Mr Hollinrake said: “I think the Government is doing much to improve social mobility, improving schools and promoting the family being probably the most important.

“There are a number of other things that I would like to see though, delivering more affordable homes and, over time, raising the minimum wage so that it meets the level of the then current national Living Wage.

“I believe we could do this within 10 years without endangering jobs.”

* My scoop last week that Carlsberg has put the former Tetley Brewery site up for sale generated an enormous amount of interest.

This is hardly surprising; the site occupies a prime position in the heart of the South Bank area of Leeds, a place that is ripe for urban renewal and rightly marketed as one of the best regeneration opportunities in Europe. Carlsberg is said to be wanting £35m for the land, which covers 22 acres.

A spokesman told me: “We will be taking care to select a purchaser who will respect the site’s heritage and be proactive in bringing forward a successful, high quality development.”

I’m told there is a lot of buyer interest in the site from parties ranging from Leeds City Council to Asda and Ikea as well as some well-known property developers and investors.

For the sake of the city and also for its own reputation in these parts, I hope Carlsberg makes the right choice.