Has national politics in Britain given up on the North of England? In this week’s cover feature, director of Policy Exchange Neil O’Brien argues that very little is being currently done to effectively close the growing North-South divide. In the latest View from 22 podcast, Neil examines the historical attempts to close the gap and why they have failed:
‘There have been endless rounds of discussion about structural reforms. Lord Heseltine on his piece ‘No stone unturned’ proposes this huge reorganization of local government and the massive transfer of powers and money to City regions. I don’t think that’s going to happen whoever is in government. I think the thing I would try and do differently —and the reason why we’ve failed since the war to close the growing gap between North and South — is that a lot of what we tried to do has been going against the grain of the market than trying to work with it.
‘In the 1960s, we were doing extreme things to try and drive business to the North. Very crude things, like getting permission to expand in low unemployment areas. About 20 per cent of applications to expand in the South were being turned down by central government, which is a mad thing. It didn’t work, as it didn’t drive businesses elsewhere. It either stops things from happening or drives them into Europe. It didn’t work, the gap got bigger and people kept on flowing from North to South.’
Fraser Nelson also discusses our magazine leader on why the Spectator would say no to joining any state-backed press regulator that may be recommended in today’s Leveson report:
‘This is something all of us in the magazine feel quite strongly about. We’re sitting here recording the podcast in the archive of the Spectator, the walls lined with old Spectators. Our magazine, since its inception in 1828, has been vigorously in favour of press freedom and every time this has been suggested by the politicians — which is one every 25/30 years — we have knocked it on the head firmly and effectively.
‘The technology changes but the arguments effectively don’t. People misbehave and at the end of the day, do you respond by robbing them of their freedom or do you regard this as an ancient liberty to be cherished? As The Spectator has argued through the decades, press freedom is not there for the benfit of the press, it’s for the benefit of the public.’
And what is our guest’s verdict on the new Bank of England Governor Mark Carney? Listen with the embedded player below to why they believe his appointment might be the best decision George Osborne has made as Chancellor. You can also have the latest podcast delivered straight to your machine by subscribing through iTunes. As ever, we’d love to hear what you think, good or bad.
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