THE GREAT Northern Fightback continues to gather pace at the end of a game-changing week which saw The Yorkshire Post and 33 newspapers team up to demand political action to transform the region’s economic fortunes.
Within hours, national leaders were hurriedly rushing to acknowledge the North’s existence, many seemingly for the first time. The campaign was cited at Prime Minister’s Questions and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry demanded more powers.
This was followed by the UK2070 symposium in Leeds in which Lord Bob Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, likened the inequality of the North-South divide to Germany at the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. The gap, he warned, is that profound in a nation divided as much by wealth and opportunity as it is by Brexit.
And today the Treasury Committee is launching a new Parliamentary inquiry into regional imbalances in the economy and the impact that these have on the health, and education, of people living in different parts of the country.
No wonder Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, hailed the UK2070 report – and the week’s fast-moving developments – as a “watershed” moment five years after George Osborne, the then Chancellor, set out plans to create a Northern Powerhouse.
Yet, while the new inquiry is well-intended, much of the work has already been done by Lord Kerslake’s team and this region’s newspapers who continue to speak up for the 15 million people who live and work in the North.
The greater urgency is making sure promises by politicians are honoured – trust between this region and Westminster remains at a historic low – and that the next Prime Minister, working on a cross-party basis, ensures that the North gets the investment, and attention, that it urgently needs and deserves if it is to power up the whole country. And, rest assured, there will be no let-up in our groundbreaking campaign until this happens.