For a while now, I have heard both excitable and sceptical talk about the Northern Powerhouse; a great mythical entity that is dragging us all out ‘f pit and into gleaming futuristic office tower blocks. A great glass elevator of middle class social aspirations. The idea was cemented by George Osborne in a speech last July which centered around the idea of the major northern cities being better connected and working together in order to rebalance the economy. The government is currently investing £13 million in improving railway links. Not only this, but money will be invested in areas such as science, culture and digital innovation. So far so good.
I was pretty disappointed however when I heard that James Wharton, newly appointed Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, has admitted that he wasn’t quite sure as to where “the North” actually begins. What is clear is that the even the person who is supposed to know the most about the Northern Powerhouse in the whole country isn’t quite sure what or indeed where the North is, which you would expect to be basic knowledge for such a renowned appointed expert. What we can glean from this is that the notion of the Northern Powerhouse is more of a patronizing public relations strategy which is hazy at best. This would suggest that Westminster’s attitude to the concept of “the North” hasn’t really changed at the same pace as the rapid gentrification of cities such as Manchester and Leeds.
The fact that Wharton is a little puzzled regarding the location of the north is rather telling. The North is seen in the halls of Westminster as something at a homogeneous blob. Full of grim old boarded up mill towns and a few dodgy cities that are ripe for mockery and disdain. The north is actually pretty diverse and is much harder to define than just simply the north. If the intention really is to rebalance the country then please stop patronizing us Westminister.