January 18, 2020

If The Tories Are Serious About The North, Its Time To Move Parliament
I was interested in the speech of my good friend Sadiq Khan at Mansion House last week where he warned politicians against pursuing an anti-London agenda. Sadiq’s a brilliant mayor and I’ll be campaigning for him at the next mayoral election. Of course he’s right to stick up for his city but I’ve got to say a word in defence of the north.I’ll be up front about London. I have a love/hate relationship with our fantastic capital city. I relish the journeys coming out of London at the moment for obvious reasons, but it’s undoubtedly one of the very greatest cities in the world and second to none with its cultural offer. I’d really miss it if it wasn’t there but there are things I can’t stand about it. If the elite think the move would be too much for them, we’ll get some other people from the “wrong schools” to run the country who weren’t born to it.I can’t stand that it embodies such great privilege and elitism whilst the rest of the country can go hang. I can’t stand it that such incredible wealth sits cheek by jowl with such dreadful and overwhelming poverty and inequality. I can’t stand it that the media, print and broadcast, are still obsessed with London despite the valuable and appreciated efforts of the BBC and C4 in Salford and Leeds respectively. More of that please.  Sadiq bemoans the alleged retraction of public sector and infrastructure investment from London. The mayor has got a point in one respect if you think that London is the only major city of similar stature across the globe that doesn’t receive a direct grant for its transport system from central government. That’s another stupid Tory government decision.  Of course my plans to repurpose the Tories mad, expansionist, climate-destroying road building programme into a sustainable transport fund would have been a shot in the arm for London and the entire country. I know Londoners can sometimes complain about transport but it really is a world class transport network so I politely say to my mate Sadiq – you’ve got to get out more my friend! The north has had the scraps for years and it’s got to change.And then it got me thinking: In Portcullis House in Westminster, I was recently given a talk from House staff over the fabulous scale model of the parliamentary estate about the plans to install another House of Commons chamber in the soon to be rebuilt Richmond House on Whitehall.They set out plans to decant MPs and staff from their current knackered old offices whilst huge swathes of the estate are rebuilt and refurbished in readiness for the major works on the old palace and the historic chambers themselves. It’s going to cost the nation an absolute fortune.So it got me thinking. If the Tories are so signed up to Labour’s agenda to rebalance our economy, and if their commitment to the north is to be more than cynical electioneering ( again), why don’t we all agree to shift the whole parliamentary and Whitehall operation out of London and relocate to a purpose built, fit for purpose, modern parliament rather than retrofitting a museum piece and leave the old place to the visitors as a tourist theme park?And if the commitment is real, put it somewhere that would be transformational. Somewhere in England that has been starved of public investment, had its core industries and economy betrayed and abandoned by Westminster and Whitehall and never given any meaningful government support. Somewhere where opportunities for young people are best pursued by leaving rather than staying. Somewhere that all too often, as a direct result of government policies, languishes at the wrong end of multiple deprivation indices. Sadly, my town of Middlesbrough fits that bill. I hear the metropolitan sniggers already. It’s okay. I’ve heard all the smart arsery a million times over but it doesn’t make it right. The disdain and condescension are common currency. But, the sneerers will say: “There’s nowhere in Middlesbrough that could possibly house parliament and all its machinery.” Yes – so build it.They might also say: “It’s really hard to get to. The transport links are terrible.” Yes, they could be much better but it’s hard the other way too – welcome to my world. So let’s crack on and build Crossrail for the north – “northern powerhouse rail” if you prefer – and HS2 as well and take it right into the heart of the north east and on to Scotland, assuming passport checks at Berwick don’t undermine it by then.And if the elite think such a move would be too much for them, and if some of the civil service think it beneath them, then they can all stay where they are in London and we’ll get some other people from the “wrong schools” to run the country who weren’t born to it.London, I love you but you are not the be all and end all. It would do us all the world of good if we broke up your stranglehold on power and wealth. You might be able to breathe and we might be able to grow. You don’t need parliament but a new parliament in the north could transform our country. You’ve got a helluva lot going for you and you’re going to be fine with or without parliament but it’s about time the north got a fair crack of the whip.Andy McDonald is MP for Middlesborough and Labour’s shadow transport secretary.Related... Boris Johnson Unveils Brexit Day Celebration Plans – But Big Ben Will Not Bong Here's What The £500,000 Big Ben Brexit Bong Fund Could Have Paid For A Few Metres Away What To Watch For In The Labour Leadership Hustings
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