Heed this Siemens industrialist over Northern Powerhouse – Tom Richmond

THE pre-eminent engineer and industrialist Juergen Maier will always have a special place in Yorkshire’s history.

The presence of Siemens at Alexandra Dock, Hull, has been an economic game-changer for the city.

He’s the man who helped bring wind turbine manufacturer Siemens to Hull and, with it, a new dawn for the proud city as aspiration replaced apathy.

Now his experience and expertise should be used by regional and national leaders to turn the North into the world’s greatest enterprise zone.

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Just as it took a politician of Michael Heseltine’s stature to begin the transformation of neglected British cities in the 1980s, it now needs a leader with a similar vision to do the same in the post-Covid period.

Juergen Maier set up the Siemens plant in Hull.

And while Mr Maier won’t thank me – I’ve never met him by the way – his early morning interview this week by Danni Hewson on BBC Radio 5 live’s Wake Up to Money was so compelling, and so persuasive, that it should form the basis of the Northern Powerhouse agenda as the Government, and country, return to business.

Required listening for all politicians and policy-makers, this German-born adopted son of the North was speaking in the context of reports that a sixth of young people will lose their jobs and that the pandemic’s initial shock will last a decade.

They’re the lockdown generation – today’s equivalent to the millions left on the unemployment scrap heap in the 1980s.

“It’s a huge worry, this, and I think there is really only way to tackle it, and that is to think now and plan now, and have a really, really smart, well invested industrial strategy,” said Mr Maier who was committed at Siemens to promoting – and championing – young talent.

Grant Shapps is the Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister.

“This is especially true for Northern regions, like the Northern Powerhouse where I do a lot of work on this, and where we really define what are the industries we want to invest in the future. That’s what an industrial strategy is all about.”

In other words, this is not the time for delay, dither or Dominic Cummings-like distractions. “Then we plough masses of money into the research and development and innovation and, through that, we allow the right businesses to invest,” he went on with customary efficiency.

“By which we mean businesses which are going to be clean and low carbon, businesses which are high tech and investing, and obviously what we do is create high paid, well paid, highly skilled jobs for the next generation.”

For example, he cited green energy and a need to create the “right incentives” to encourage car manufacturers to build the next generation of electric vehicles here and create “the right jobs” for “the next generation”.

But it requires the Government to get its act together. “Any advanced economy like the UK has to have the ability to be able to look at the here and now, help resolve the crisis, help us get back to work but, at the same time, make sure we are developing the right industrial strategy for the right jobs in the future,” he added.

“We haven’t done that very well for the last four decades, particularly our Conservative government has been very inconsistent in terms of its industrial strategy approach.

“It tends to prefer a free market economy, but I’m afraid that’s not going to fly in this post-Covid world. It’s better to create a strategy and invest that money in the sorts of industries and jobs we want to create for our next generation.”

I’m convinced by this foresight (as distinct from hindsight). Are you? And, crucially after the past week, what about our unelected ‘PM’ and his spokesman? Over to you Dominic Cummings – and, I presume, Boris Johnson.

IT was the misfortune of Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary (and Northern Powerhouse Minister), to be despatched last weekend to field national media questions about the Dominic Cummings saga.

“What I want to talk about is the A66,” he said in despair at one point after announcing the proposed route of a new dual carriageway between Scotch Corner in North Yorkshire and the Cumbrian town of Penrith.

What the broadcasters – and I suspect the Minister himself – didn’t seem to realise was that the upgrade would make it easier, and quicker, for Mr Cummings to travel to Barnard Castle, and Durham while he’s at it, to see the family, sort childcare, breach the lockdown or test his eyesight (delete as appropriate).

THE brass neck of Matt Hancock. The Health and Social Care Secretary tells us to do our ‘‘civic duty’’ to stop the spread of Covid-19 – and we will continue to do so – but stands by the PM’s chief aide Dominic Cummings for lockdown breaches.

Typical of a politician who will do anything to ingratiate himself with the PM, I did feel a modicum of sympathy for him when he was immediately contradicted by Downing Street after promising a review into the fines imposed on families for travelling during the lockdown due to childcare needs.

But it didn’t last long. A principled Health Secretary would have resigned because the hypocrisy of Mr Cummings had made it harder for the wider health message to be enforced as the public’s patience nears breaking point.

WHO needs BBC weather forecasters like Look North’s Paul Hudson when there’s Yorkshire-born racehorse trainer William Haggas, son-in-law to the great Lester Piggott, to inform us?

Haggas, who won the Derby in 1996 with Shaamit, says: “I’ve spoken to one of my owners who is a grown-up farmer and spends a lot of time studying the weather, and he said the next appreciable rain will be in September. He said wheat prices are going up daily and that’s the sign it’s going to be a drought.”

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