One of my great grandfathers was a self-made coal-mining, ship-owning and quarry-owning industrialist from Sunderland who married the daughter of the shipbuilder who built most of his ships. The shipbuilder, Short brothers was the first to demonstrate that reducing the working day increased productivity.
They were men who started as respectively a shipwright and a clerk. Unfortunately, of course, their descendants lost that desire to build businesses and usually moved away from the area. The new men who might build similar business successes in the North East face more impediments to enterprise than their forebears but they still exist.
Of course, the Victorian industrialist didn’t seek government help for their enterprises and government help often distorts incentives to the detriment of long term success.
Mine were Yorkshire shipping and woollen trade, much the same story. Now its all farming or move to London to the professions.
This is a superb article, and hits the spot completely. Government ministers as a general rule have no idea how to encourage enterprise – which is largely let it exist! Nor have they any feel for local culture, pride, drive, humour, any of those things which make people love their region and their city, and their neighbours. There have been a couple – Nick Ridley loved the north east, Michael Heseltine came to admire Liverpool and Mersey (never though I would find myself with anything good to say about Heseltine).
But the Tories are almost entirely southern focused and Labour remain anti-enterprise. What hope can there be?
The answer sometimes seems to be a move towards a proper federal system giving the north east true self government. It ought to give hope of local revival, but then you look at the broken shambles that is SNP Scotland and the way in which Westminster will always try to retain power, or claw it back, and weep.
We need a really radical visionary freedom focused party and cabinet. With a slogan. How about “Take Back Control”? That would sound good in a Geordie accent
Jeremy, sorry, I hijacked your comment, but there is no general comment box appearing below the article
Only too happy to have it hijacked as you put it. Nicholas Ridley was a northern grandee, his eldest brother being the 4th Viscount Ridley of Blagdon Hall in Northumberland and while the family’s origins were Northumberland gentry the family wealth was derived from 18th and 19th century coal, brewing and glass enterprises a very typical enterprising North Eastern family that did well. Although he was a free trade capitalist he had the good sense to advise Margaret Thatcher against privatising British Rail as it merely replaced a national monopoly with a number of privatised local one’s.
My great grandfather was a Liberal but it is true that the Tory party would benefit by having more practical northern industrialists involved in its direction.
We were asked by Prescott whether we wanted a devolved assembly for the North and it was very sensibly rejected by the voters who didn’t want another layer of posturing politicians.
If this Government is serious about levelling up, it could do no better than to start by putting it’s own house in order. Figures published by the House of Commons library in 2019 show the disproportionate level of per capita public expenditure in London and the South East. If the Government addressed this issue they would transfer employment, wealth and investment to the Regions using their own means and resources rather than trying to influence the behaviour of others.
Through a lot of the naughties/teens London and the South East received more infrastructure spending than the rest of the UK combined. You then look at how other regions in the UK receive less funding than the NE/NW. I’m baffled why most of the levelling up is focused on the north.
” …Michael Gove is a clever man and his civil servants mean well…”
Although a Conservative voter, and one-time party member, I see absolutely no evidence to support either of these assertions. To the contrary, much of Mr Gove’s activity, policy, and output appears to be really quite unintelligent – bearing out that academic qualifications are absolutely no indicator of any significant ability or common sense.
As for his “well meaning civil servants”, I’m sorry, but today this statement seems quite ludicrous, and will grate jarringly with many readers. Most of our civil servants and others in the public sector who we pay so well, have spent the last few years demonstrating exactly how “well-intentioned” they are (not). Their lack of care and concern for the population at large has been painfully and conspicuously apparent as many have fled homewards and have remained embedded there, verruca-like – quite impossible to dislodge back to their work-places.
Levelling up is another complete nonsense. There will of course, be some good ideas that can be used. But the “levelling up” of a region can really only come from within – people already know that business creates jobs and prosperity. But they need to accept it into their souls, and make it happen. I believe that this is the wish that drove much of the Red Wall Tory vote. If so, I should imagine that those voters may be disappointed when what is on offer is merely more condescending hand-outs, and yet more interference from politicians and civil servants – who want only to feather their own nests, either financially or in PR terms.
Government doesn’t need to “help”. It needs to get out of the bloody way, stop interfering, and let people make their own fortunes according to their own wit and will to do so.
I visited Tyneside a few times in the 1980s and I never encountered the positivity mentioned. On the contrary there appeared to be a regional inferiority complex. Older people thought that the North East was finished. The Geordie friendliness’s was overrated too. Many were unemployed but managed from pint to pint by doing odd jobs. Employment such as fishing was limited by licence. Not a good place to live.
The Labour Party needs a Northern leader if it wants to get those votes back from the North.
The author demeans himself by using the epithet “stupid” (twice). Whatever one’s politics, there’s got to be a better way to critique government policy.
He also, in referring to the Chapmans, writes “they chose to live in Westoe village, a mile from the dirtiest, most overcrowded, highest death-rate borough in the land.” This, in the context of suggesting that the industrialists of the early 20th century were somehow ‘levelling up’ the North-East. It should come as a surprise that the author failed to see the flaw in that particular point, but it doesn’t. Given my earlier admonition, i’m loathe to use the same epithet he uses!