It wasn’t only David Cameron and George Osborne who went to patronise voters in the north of England this week. They also dusted off Margaret Thatcher’s old “minister for Merseyside” Michael Heseltine for the trip.
The Tory trio tried to sell the idea of building a “northern powerhouse” that “can take on the world”. They would create this out of disparate towns and cities, many of which they have spent decades running down.
This time they added glitter with talk of infrastructure—the cherry on top being a high speed rail line. This would let a few rich executives spend slightly less time in the Pennines between meetings in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Behind all this was the same tired routine that Heseltine has been flogging for four decades. His superficial “regeneration” does nothing to create real jobs or replace slashed services.
Neither the Tories nor the bosses who benefit from their schemes care about improving the lives of ordinary people—whatever region they live in.
They won’t give people who’ve left former mill towns and pit villages to seek work a reason to go home, however fast the trains are.
There was one thing that brought real investment into one of Britain’s poorest cities in the 1980s. But it wasn’t one of Heseltine’s wheezes. It was when the residents of Toxteth, Merseyside, rose up and rioted.