IWAS in Manchester Earlier This [...]

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 6, 2014 | Go to article overview

IWAS in Manchester Earlier This [...]


Byline: COLUMNIST PAUL BENNEWORTH

IWAS in Manchester earlier this week and went to see Lord Heseltine as part of a University of Manchester popular politics week.

Earlier in the day, George Osborne had announced a plan for an elected mayor for Greater Manchester, finally solving a problem his heroine Thatcher created three decades earlier.

Heseltine's original title was 'The Forgotten People' based upon his 2010 report on opportunities for English devolution. And hearing him speak, I wondered if he felt that Osborne had stolen his thunder.

He was right to feel slightly aggrieved. He was one of the very few Conservative politicians campaigning for a better deal for Liverpool in the 1980s, sparked by his first-hand experiences of the city's parlous state in the wake of inner city riots under his watch.

As a 'One Nation' Tory, he even spent 18 months reflecting on how the Conservative government could improve people's lives on eternally-Labour voting Merseyside.

He was beaming with pride on Monday with what he'd achieved, and rightly so. To me, as a North Shields lad, I see today's regeneration of our town follows the trajectory he set off with two of his brainchildren, the Urban Development Corporations, and City Challenge.

You could sense in his soaring voice that he was proud of helping local government of all political hues to find new ways of working together.

There was even a twinkle in his eye when he told of his pride in local authorities in 'his' Liverpool being the first to sign 'city agreements' with the Coalition government.

But what struck me as even strange in the speech was that there were whole sections that just didn't seem to fit. He seemed confused whether 19th century slum clearance and sanitation was a waste of entrepreneurs' money or a price worth paying for a liveable, dynamic city.

Every time he talked about tax policy, the twinkling stopped and his eyes glazed over as he stumblingly read out turgid nonsense. …

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