Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sad and Damning Story of Irresponsible Neglect; No Answer: The Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Pictured Here on Her Much-Publicised Tour of Industrial Wasteland at Stockton, Teesside, during 1987

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Sad and Damning Story of Irresponsible Neglect; No Answer: The Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Pictured Here on Her Much-Publicised Tour of Industrial Wasteland at Stockton, Teesside, during 1987

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS BLACKHURST

MY first reaction on reading of the suggestion by the Policy Exchange think tank that the Government should in effect abandon the North and concentrate on developing London, Oxford and Cambridge, was to laugh.

I'm a Northerner from Barrow-in-Furness, the shipbuilding town in Cumbria, and the report had a "here we go again" feel. The usual clich?s about Northerners being more friendly than people here (they're not), having their own sense of style (please), food (have you ever examined what's in black pudding?) and the rest, were trotted out.

Sensing the pin was about to be removed from a political hand grenade Policy Exchange is a favourite source of ideas for the Tory high command David Cameron was quick to condemn. The Tory leader labelled the body's recommendations "insane".

It's a pity that the study became so immediately mired in hackneyed comparisons between North and South and correspondents' rose-tinted memories of Liverpool, Bradford and Sunderland.

For what the report highlighted was an underlying tale of damning, irresponsible neglect by successive governments not of the North per se but of anywhere with an industrial past.

The fact many of them are in the North is incidental pockets of former manufacturing exist in the South, just as there are places in the North that compare with anywhere in the South in terms of lifestyle and personal wealth. For too long, Britain has had no industrial policy and the North has borne the brunt of this recklessness.

When Mrs Thatcher did her famous walkabout at Stockton on Teesside in 1987, the rot had already set in.

We did not know how to cope with cheap overseas labour. The quest for new technology to replace the breakthroughs wrought by the Industrial Revolution was allowed to occur elsewhere, notably in Japan. Once-great mills were turned over to studio apartments.

The whole country, not just the North, did what it does best and wallowed in past glories, opening "heritage parks" in former centres of engineering excellence.

Factories were obliterated and in their place came "business parks" and "enterprise zones". …

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