David Skelton

Britain must realise George Osborne’s vision of a northern powerhouse

If you walk around our great northern cities, you’ll see stunning examples of civic pride. Albert Square in Manchester and Leeds Town Hall reflect resurgent local confidence. Old narratives of northern decline are out of date. When Guardian writer Andy Beckett launched a hatchet job on the north-east a few weeks ago, claiming that the region was the ‘next Detroit’, the response was visceral and immediate. Beckett managed to write an entire article about the north-east without mentioning Nissan – the most productive car plant in Europe.

The North is home to new tech hubs, advanced manufacturing, superb universities and world-leading culture, from sport to music to art. The north-east was the fastest growing economic region in the Lloyds index last month. People are returning to the job market in the north-east and north-west at the fastest rate nationwide. City centres once scarred by industrial decline are now vibrant and attractive, driven by the enterprise of the re-emerging private sector.

But it would be foolish to think that there isn’t much more to do. There are still substantial pockets of deprivation within a stone’s throw of the transformed cities. Many of the old coalfield villages, built with one purpose in mind, remain in the doldrums. And a ‘brain drain’ sucks talented young people southwards.

We northerners are right to feel pride in the identities and heritage of our towns and cities. It was here that the industrial revolution was forged with local coal, iron, labour and ingenuity, which propelled Britain to global pre-eminence. The North deserves an economic future to match its glorious past. To realise this ambition, we need to be bold and ingenious once more.

The North needs to think globally – and see itself in a global context as well as a national one.

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