PR to the people: We back the Power Up North campaign

Power Up The North

Regionalism is an insidious force, no matter which side of whatever border you live. Nevertheless, Smoking Gun’s home turf and nearby counties have long suffered at the hands of Westminster’s ignorance. Now a new cross-media campaign, Power Up The North, is looking to right decades of wrong.

Launched last week, Power Up The North involves more than 30 regional newspapers and websites from across the north of England. Together, they are demanding politicians clearly spell out plans for narrowing the North-South divide— perfectly timed given the current clamour for Tory leadership and talk of a potential General Election.

In short— they, like us, are sick of central powers not taking the region seriously.

Why should the country want to Power Up The North?

Let’s start with Smoking Gun’s base camp, central Manchester. We lie at the heart of the UK’s second largest metropolitan area. This economy is greater than Wales and Northern Ireland. The population is booming— with more people moving here from London and the South than vice versa.

It doesn’t end with Manchester

We’re immensely proud of the city we call home. One look at the skyline— dubbed Manhattanchester by BBC Radio 4— speaks volumes about how much business is in the city.

The effort by Manchester Airport to secure lucrative new routes, ahead of its £1billion ‘super terminal’ transformation, has helped no end.

But this is just one city of 2.8million people. The region— from Merseyside to Humberside, South Yorkshire to Cumbria— accounts for 14.9million. Greater London is just under 9million.

Leeds is set to be the new home of Channel 4, spreading media investment across the region following Salford’s Media City boom. Sheffield is at the cutting edge of culture. Liverpool, already on the rise before, now has ‘untold PR potential’ from the Champions League win.

This is before we mention the likes of Newcastle, Preston— Britain’s most-improved city 2018 that set a benchmark for ‘insourcing’ public departments— and the untapped potential in smaller towns

Currently, the combined economy of the North is £304billion. If it were a self-governing entity it would be the EU’s 10th largest by GDP.

Power Up The North

Why are people so angry?

Commuters are stuck on rail equivalents to clapped-out Ford Granadas that somehow still pass their MOTs.

HS2’s northern spurs hang in the balance, further evidencing how investment is lacking. These examples are despite good transport links being the biggest catalysts for economic growth.

Last year it emerged James Wharton, once ‘northern powerhouse minister’, spent £40,000 covering up how little he visited the north.

A 2017 BMJ report stated those aged between 35 and 44 are twice as likely to die suddenly in the North. Obesity rates, GCSE results, and wages all show huge disparities in favour of the South.

This article from The Independent claims average pay for working women in Camden was £560 per week in 2016. For Hartlepool the figure falls to £252.

In May, Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service, drew parallels between the North-South divide and reunification-era Germany. In 1989, East lagged far behind West. It took direct and purposeful investment to bridge the gap.

Still, at least we have more Greggs.

So what is the Power Up North campaign looking for?

Nothing that hasn’t been promised before and then backtracked on… Formal backing for the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda, and…

*MPs putting full weight behind a bespoke Industrial Strategy for the North of England

*Overhaul of road and rail networks including greater devolution of funding and powers

*Northern Powerhouse Rail to be made a national priority

*Decision making for the region to be shifted from London to the North

*Accelerated improvements to digital infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and more support for creative industries

*Guaranteed delivery of affordable homes and social housing

*Additional investment made available to schools, colleges and universities


If it works, imagine what could be done…