Going by his podcast chat the other day with Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times, George Osborne still seems to be a bit confused about the point of socio-economic regeneration.
He spoke of the need for at least some capital projects to kickstart levelling up.
Anyone know what levelling up means yet?
If you do know then pop your answer(s), please, on the back of a post card or in a sealed brown envelope and send them to Boris “Booster” Johnson care of 10, Downing Street, Westminster, London, SW1A 2AA, and not Carrie’s Pad or even, Blue Peter.
Then again …
The lucky winner with the best definition, not using the words, “levelling” and “up” within it, to explain the meaning of levelling up gets a peerage.
No, only joking.
Seriously, they will, instead (or may be not, who knows, eh?) receive the grateful thanks of the nation.
Incidentally, will Labour ever define a good job for the working class to the complete satisfaction of its middle class leadership?
“As an aside, I am from a (white) working class background so the affection for meaningful manual labour, with dignity, to be found amongst a middle class, Corbynistas included, who have never experienced it and have no plans to do so, rather baffles me.”
“I was the first member of my family to leave school, after three years of Sixth Form, and step straight into an office job as an Executive Officer in the Home Civil Service. For a while, when I was starting out in the Civil Service, I lived with my paternal grandparents.
My grandad, a carpenter and joiner, by trade, working class aristocracy, in fact, liked to speak of me proudly to friends and acquaintances as his grandson, the civil servant.”
Keir Starmer needs to fire Claire Ainsley
Osborne wants oodles of capital spend on projects for which Ministers may lay the corner stone, the capping stone and pose, grinning inanely …
… with an outsize pair of rubber scissors to cut the ribbon at the official opening and, you guessed it, unveil the stone marking said opening.
“It’ll cost you, guvnor, I can’t get the labour, the materials … especially the wood … Some prat negotiated and signed off on a Hard Brexit and its steadily gumming up the works.”
We have one million unfilled vacancies in the UK.
Why not spend a smidgeon of the planned capital spend expenditure, right now, on helping to fill a few of those jobs, instead, thereby growing our own domestic work force?
Let us regenerate some people not places for once?
We may not get many into work this way, but it would greatly benefit the individuals in question and possibly stave off some business failures, too.
We would, admittedly, be levelling up everywhere to some extent, giving a hand up to those out of work, especially those furthest from the labour market or in some cases even in employment.
We would not be giving much in the way of a hand out to property developers.
And, given the hardest to reach usually respond best, in many cases, to outreach by the (local) voluntary and community sector then we might funnel a bit of money in their direction.
And as Kate Bingham’s boutique consultants have clearly failed to find ways to drive up Covid vaccination amongst disadvantaged groups then that might reasonably be a secondary aim of this spending.
Let us live a little and see if we might not drive up access to primary care, more generally?
We need to persuade people of the general value of tackling Man Made Global Warming so why not some projects around installing insulation in domestic and commercial premises, especially in the less well off areas?
We might even train up some of the locals to do the work, it is relatively easy in comparison with being trained to be a bricklayer (with no ready access to bricks).
Regional organisations to pull this activity together would be nice, like the Regional Development Agencies that David Cameron and George Osborne scrapped.
Agencies, Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves working coherently with employers and other key stakeholders which will is way more productive than politicians engaging in drive by consulting or making flying visits to company premises for photo opps …
… whilst they promulgate well intentioned, I am sure, ideas about what is good for business …
Reeves “enthusiasm for cutting business rates on the high street is not blunted by the evidence that cutting rates gives commercial landlords leeway to raise the rents of their high street tenants and that falls in footfall are likely to prove impervious to rate cuts.”
Team Starmer’s skills advisory panel couldn’t sell air conditioning to Arabs …
A grown up partnership wherein Labour is a responsible adult, directing a potentially wayward child?
… designed, in part, by an IVF salesperson without input from business, trades unions, local and devolved governments.
Do journalists not do research, any more?
The IVF salesperson and Chief Executive Officer of the IVF business founded by his mother, just happens to be the ambitious chair of the South Islington and Finsbury Constituency Labour Party.
We do have growing problems around the scarcity of skills and labour and investment.
Allied with a worrying ignorance amongst much of the political class …
Buying, making and selling more in Britain to boost British exports (!), Rachel Reeves, is so 1960s.
Anyone for a rousing chorus of “Where have all the flowers gone?, man!”
… and a high degree of ignorance amongst our London-centric media about good business practice in 2021 and trade, commerce, industry and economics more generally.
One of our faded industrial heartlands …
Anyone for Bullshit Bingo?
Starmer’s speech to the 2021 CBI Conference was full of soundbites like this one …
Meanwhile, on Planet Reality the unemployed want jobs. A well paid boring job with good terms and conditions will do for many people.
If you want an example of a key difference between the middle, the salaried class, and the working, wage earning class, then surely it has to be that for many of the former, an occupation means a career whereas for many of the latter, it is a job.
There is a significant degree of overlap, however, in each group thinking of their particular occupation as a vocation.
People in what the Commentariat and many politicians choose to define as low skilled employment often do take pride in their work.
And one of those low, hard skilled positions invariably requires a significant degree of soft skills.
Bafflingly, if you have worked in skills, Starmer thinks riding a bicycle is a soft skill.
It is actually a hard skill that becomes less hard the better you become at avoiding falling off your cycle.
Seriously, Starmer needs some advice on employability and skills.
To return to my main point, we do not need the harvesting of low hanging fruit; quick hits or shovel ready projects in the context of socio-economic regeneration.
We do need to build on what has worked in the past; learn from what has not and trial new ways of working in a business-like manner.
Evidence based policy making.
We need recognition, especially in the media, that this policy area is not really a party political story.
It is about the building of partnerships of key stakeholders in locales, including politicians from different parties working together for the common good, and the sustaining of such partnerships through thick and thin.
“Former Tory Minister for Merseyside Michael Heseltine was “moved to tears” on learning he was to be given the Freedom of the City.
The revelation came from council leader Cllr Joe Anderson ahead of formally moving that the city’s highest honour should be bestowed on the Conservative peer in recognition for the work he had done to regenerate Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots of 1981.”
Freedom of Liverpool ‘reduced Michael Heseltine to tears’ says Joe Anderson
To mangle a quote, a Labour council – a Labour council – handing the freedom of the City of Liverpool to Michael Heseltine (not Derek “Degsy” Hatton) in 2012.
Later on the Corbynistas, embarrassingly for Labour members who have read more than two books, tried to take the credit for the work of that Liverpudlian partnership between a Tory Minister and a Labour council, built on setting aside party politics.
Alan Bleasdale on Derek Hatton, Michael Murray and GBH
Socio-economic regeneration is about the delivery of outputs and outcomes that do not fit neatly into the electoral cycle and is a process that is likely to be never ending.
Storming and norming; rebadging; refocusing etc are disruptive and should only be indulged in when absolutely necessary.
People on the ground in all three sectors of the economy and the locals, residents and businesses that should be at the heart of it all, need the freedom; the power, including relatively easy access to the public money and the responsibility, to work together in relationships of creative tension, allowing a free and frank exchange of views.
Yes, dear reader, I too read, write, speak and comprehend fluent bullshit (to a purpose).
Heaven forfend, that experts in the field of socio-economic regeneration be asked to even make an observation.
And I am not talking here about time filling vox pops on the lunchtime news …
“Ey, lad, the local high street’s gone right down and what are they doing about it? Nuffing that’s what.”
Sotto voce, “Was that what you wanted, son?”
“Perfect and in one take, too!”
The question that never seems to be asked next and broadcast being, “Where do you shop?”
… or GBeebies.
“This is Gloria De Piero for GB News in deepest Ruislip. Fred Sponge, Covid, fact or fiction?”
(Editor: It says Alum Rock on the strapline. Thank God! We’ll go viral, again, on Social Media)
“High street’s gone to the dogs. And what are they doin’ about it? Nuffin!”
“Fred, that’s next week. Now about the draconian lockdown measures. Unfair, if not unnecessary, surely?”
A pity that broadcasters and columnists do not treat vox pops in the serious way Easton describes.
And spare me and the body politic, please, from pointless focus groups and Labour’s particular version of focus group Groundhog Day.
Media and politicians have nearly 100 years of theory and practice in socio-economic regeneration in a UK context from which to draw upon.
There are numerous experts on socio-economic regeneration in the private sector; in the voluntary and community sector down to community activist level; in the public sector with whom to engage.
There are expert theorists, a fair few muddy booted to be found in the ivory towers of academia.
Instead, we have paraded before our eyes on all media, the opinions of the Commentariat; the informed views of pollsters and of politicians and journalists, some of whom have wandered the country, holding the hands of the left behind (59% of those who voted Leave are estimated to have been middle and upper class), staring deeply into their eyes and saying there, there, before returning from whence they came to write books not only about their objective findings, but about what must now be done to level up, in their opinion.
We now have the prospect of Lisa “Small Towns” Nandy facing Michael “Grinner” Gove at the Despatch Box and engaging in arid debates about something called levelling up.
There is a certain depressing irony in Gove who campaigned so hard for Leave in 2016 now being shadowed by Nandy, who lost the English Midlands in public when she embraced Brexit in 2017.
Two would be candidates for the leaderships of their respective parties hamstrung by Brexit.
A Hard Brexit limits what may be practically achieved.
You may not lay bricks in a time of scarce bricklayers, HGV drivers and, well, bricks.
Neither major party is willing to publicly admit how much circumscribed they are by the deal the one negotiated and the other endorsed.
Still, at least we do have the opportunity to fill a few jobs, hopefully safeguarding some businesses; may be a chance to improve the health and well being of some of the most disadvantaged in our society and do a bit to tackle Man Made Global Warming.
A main target for spending, an ancillary target and a contribution to two cross cutting themes!
Do I get my peerage now, sorry, correction, the grateful thanks of the majority of the nation who would like to see Labour and the Tories address issues that really matter rather than see them behave like two bald men, fighting over a comb?