It is cold, dark and damp outside and it stills seems like a very long time to Christmas, so what better time for one of the UK’s political parties to light up the sky with a bold set of pledges to renew our economy and rebuild our Yorkshire economy.
A New Britain – here in Yorkshire
In a 150-page paper authored by former prime minister, Gordon Brown and commissioned by the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Labour has pledged “to match the ambitions of people across the country to reignite our economy and build a better future”. But what does that really mean to people here in Huddersfield, in Batley and in our other nearby towns, cities and villages?
Well first it could provide the opportunity for Tracy Brabin and Oliver Coppard, our elected mayors, to do something about our trains, buses and the other local transport infrastructure that we badly need and deserve.
Talk to anyone around here and they will tell you what an absolute pain it is trying to get children to school, commuting to work or just popping into town to do some shopping. Communities here know what is needed to improve our road layouts and enhance bus routes. We also want more control over our train services and bring down costs. Labour’s plans promise to deliver the powers and investment we want to make this happen.
A new type of politics
Second, Starmer’s plan will shake up our local politics. For too long, too many people have felt unwilling to enter the political arena because of the cut and thrust of Westminster politics. A new elected House of Lords provides the opportunity for a new type of politics and a new type of politician. What more effective balance could there be to Westminster politics than an honest dose of reality from a whole new cohort of politicians with experience of business and civic leadership but without the constraints of party allegiances?
Last and most importantly, Labour’s plans would kickstart the white heat of industrial revolution. With the promise of 288 industry clusters across the country, this is an opportunity for local communities to rebuild their economies and regain their lost industrial pride.
Importantly Labour’s plans have recognised that ‘levelling up’ is not about pitting communities against each other in a race to claim small amounts of funding from central government. Rather it is about nurturing and supporting the unique industrial strength that is bubbling up within each of our communities – from renewable energy in the Humber to culture and film making in and around Halifax.
A change of narrative
This means not just funding but also a change of a narrative. It means valuing the manufacture or fabrication of a range of household goods in places like Batley, Dewsbury, and Huddersfield equally with the emerging digital health cluster across the Leeds, Harrogate and York triangle. For too long Westminster has put a premium on the services sector. Labour’s plan will have succeeded if it rebalances our economy towards those who make and produce goods.
The Labour leadership are united in their commitment to this plan. It is a long-term plan that they believe has the capacity to unlock the potential of every person in every corner of the UK over five years. And refreshingly they want to hear from us in business and in our communities. More details of their proposals can be found here. I would urge us all to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime chance to renew our democracy and rebuild our economy once the consultation is launched in 2023.