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Midlands looks on enviously as Tory northern love-in gets Cameron seal of approval

Midlands looks on enviously as Tory northern love-in gets Cameron seal of approval

🕔01.May 2015

David Cameron today continued to push the Tory party’s new-found affection for parts of England that are not in the Home Counties by visiting Yorkshire where he declared that a Conservative Government would do everything in its power to close the north-south economic gap.

Building on the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse vision, the Prime Minister said he wanted to make sure the north grows at least as fast as the rest of the country across the next Parliament and unveiled a four-point growth plan for transport, science, local power and skills.

He pointed to significant spending promises already made by the coalition Government which amount to a £13 billion investment in roads and railways across the north of England from the east to the west of the Pennies.

Describing his plan as the most important economic commitment to the north for decades, Mr Cameron claimed the next few years would be the most exciting time to be in the region since the Industrial Revolution.

Not for the first time, the Midlands must be regretting that it is just a little bit too close to London to benefit quite so heavily from the deep pockets that Mr Cameron has suddenly found. Birmingham’s not in the north or in the south, but in the West Midlands, a region which quite frankly most people in Whitehall would be hard-pressed to identify even on a map.

Greater Birmingham’s chances of rivalling the north in terms of devolution and economic support from the Government appear to rest solely on making progress with a combined authority. As far as the Conservatives are concerned, that authority must be led by an elected metro mayor to get the full benefits of ‘Midland Powerhouse’ devolution.

George Osborne dropped a big hint the other day when he said he could hand power to raise business rates to elected city mayors, as part of his bid to reduce Whitehall’s power and revitalise northern cities. There’s no reason to suppose the Midlands could not reap the same benefits, if it moves in the mayoral direction, although that won’t be necessary if Labour wins the election since the party simply wants combined authorities and isn’t overly concerned about mayors.

Mr Cameron has certainly been ‘bigging up’ the north, where the Conservatives have to make electoral gains to stand a chance of winning an overall majority. In his speech today he noted that the northern economy grew faster than the south last year, with the North West the fastest growing part of the country. Yorkshire had the largest reduction in unemployment rate in the whole country over the last year, and the North East had the fastest growth in earnings in England.

Mr Cameron said:

My message to everyone in the north is simple: the Conservative Party is the party for you. Forget about Labour, they’ve let you down before and they’ll let you down again.

This time next week, Ed Miliband could be propped up the SNP, funnelling cash north of the border. The only way to stop it, the only way to secure the future of the north, is by voting Conservative.

We have the ideas, the passion, the desire and the track record to create something special here. What I’m pledging is nothing less than the most important commitment to the north for decades: we’re going to close the north-south growth gap. We’re going to build a northern powerhouse, with more jobs and new investment coming to the north.

The next five years will see a northern surge – and, economically, it will be the most exciting time to be here since the industrial revolution.”

Continuing his vote Labour and get Nicola Sturgeon theme, Mr Cameron suggested that the transport projects promised to the north would be axed if the “Scottish Nationalists are in charge, propping up a weak Ed Miliband”.

Investment promised by the Government includes:

  • Expanding the M62 to a four lane smart motorway between Leeds and Manchester
  • Upgrading the A1 in Yorkshire to motorway, and dualling the A1 from Morpeth to Ellingham
  • Building the A555 and A585 relief roads
  • Improving the A61, and A628
  • Developing plans to upgrade the A66 and A69
  • Improving the A160 and A180 near Immingham port
  • Widening the A19
  • Electrifying the rail line from Hull to Selby
  • Building the northern rail hub to speed up journeys across the north
  • Investing a further £2.7 billion in new trains for the East Coast line and developing plans for 140 mph running, to allow faster connections to and from Yorkshire and the North East
  • Developing plans for a new high speed East-West rail line across the north. 

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