Never mind if I have sneaked back in round here, up in County Durham, Hartlepool, Peter Mandelson’s old seat, has elected a Conservative MP, Jill Mortimer, from whom I hope we will be hearing a great deal over the next few years. She may be a Yorkshire lass, but they can be forgiving of such faults these days.
The big forgotten middle, the industrial and ex-industrial towns of Durham, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire, now have a visible presence on the government benches of the Commons. I would like to think they were never forgotten places, never abandoned. They were never discarded for their political choices as that would be corrupt. However a psychological block can arise if the only voices heard from those towns is a whine of blame and condemnation and demands for more money, despite the open evidence that it just goes down the drain or makes things worse. It stops any practical engagement.
A string of ex-Red Wall towns with Conservative voices speaking for them can make a difference. MPs are the first to speak for their towns and deserve an open ear, whatever party they are from. What they say though makes a difference in whether they are heard. Socialism has been a disaster for the industrial towns and a voice begging for more socialism or for money to be paid to client groups with no positive outcome has to be dismissed, and then the town has no sensible voice, so it will miss out. When Labour are in power, a socialist MP is still whining for money and then may be heard with more sympathy, but he can still do no good. A town in trouble needs a constructive voice with ideas that work, and Hartlepool’s new voice it that.
The North has the key to the welfare of the whole land. If commercial investment is constrained in the crowded south, the north atrophies, and the whole country has lost half of its wealth-creating potential. More money in the north means more customers.
It could easily be messed up. The southern counties are not rich because the government has done something for them, but because it has left them alone and entrepreneurs have built their empires. Constructive ideas, based on the realities of the towns and their hinterlands, that would allow enterprise to thrive and the towns with them – that is what is expected of the new Blue Wall MPs . If they succeed, maybe their work will not be appreciated, but the big forgotten middle towns, not just those with newly blue MPs but all of them, will blossom.
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- By Thomas Hobbes in the Civil War and Restoration era: