Category Archives: Blog

Qualified welcome for Labour Devolution Plans

April 9th           15.30

PRESS RELEASE: (immediate)

Northern devolution campaign gives qualified welcome to Labour plans

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation -Northern Future has given a highly qualified welcome to Ed Miliband’s proposals for devolution to the North.

“We welcome any proposal to devolve powers from Whitehall and Westminster to the regions but this doesn’t go nearly far enough,” said foundation chair Barry Winter. “At the very least we would have expected Labour to re-instate the regional development agencies, which did much to support economic growth in the North, despite weak accountability. The alarming gap between the North and London and the South-east will not be closed by Labour’s proposals. If anything, it’s just sticking plaster.”

Foundation secretary Prof. Paul Salveson was equally critical. “It’s ironic that Ed Miliband points to the success of Germany where economic growth has been led by strong, directly-elected regional parliaments. What he is proposing is breathing a bit of life into the weak and unaccountable local enterprise partnerships with some extra powers to almost equally unaccountable joint boards of local authorities. This is no substitute for strong regional government which takes power and resources out of the centre and works with re-energised local authorities. The proposal for having ‘regional’ ministers, whose only accountability is to Westminster, is equally inadequate. Whilst we welcome proposals for regional banks, the key issue that Labour has ducked is regional democracy.”

The foundation is holding its annual general meeting this Saturday in Manchester. Members will hear a talk by Andy Mycock, of University of Huddersfield’s Politics Department, speak on ‘Scotland, The Referendum and The North’. “Devolution has been a great success in Scotland,” says Foundation chair Barry Winter. “Whatever the outcome of the referendum, Scotland is likely to get more powers devolved from London. We want to see the beginning of process of real devolution to the North of England to help revive our flagging economy.”

The foundation points to the ‘democratic deficit’ in the North of England. “Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Greater London have significant control over their own destinies. The North of England, with over 15 million people, is still very much tied to the dictates of Whitehall,” says Paul Salveson. “Labour’s proposals do little to address this issue”.

Ends/ For more information ring Paul Salveson 07795 008691

Note for editors (see over)

Media representatives are welcome to the first part of our AGM (Andy Mycock’s talk) but please let us know in advance that you’re coming by ringing 07795 008691. The event starts at 1300 in Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester.

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation/Northern Future is a broadly-based campaign for Northern devolution, supported by many Northern MPs and peers. Linda Riordan is president of the Foundation. The Foundation was founded in March 2012 to lobby for devolution to the North of England and is rapidly building up support across the North of England. Its patrons include Lord Prescott, several MPs and the grand-son of Hannah Mitchell. Hannah (1871-1946) was a radical activist who was imprisoned during the agitation for women’s votes. She went on to become a popular councillor in the Newton Heath ward of Manchester. Although she had just two weeks of formal schooling she was a talented writer.

Northern Future! HMF Annual General Meeting in Manchester

Northern Future – Hannah Mitchell Foundation’s new brand name – is holding its AGM in Manchester on Saturday April 12th at Friends Meeting House. It starts at 12.30 with lunch followed by Andy Mycock speaking on ‘Scotland and the North’ in the light of the referendum on independence. Non-members are welcome to the talk but they must pre-book and the cost is £10. The formal AGM business which follows will be for members only (but you can join on the day!)

Email: paul@hannahmitchell.org.uk for more details.

A Self-Defining North?

A Self-defining North? by Maggie Bullett, Huddersfield

Walter Lippman noted in 1922 that ‘for the most part we do not first see and then define, we define first and then see’. If we accept this proposition, it is apparent that how the North is defined in the imagination is at least as important as anything we consider to be objective reality.

The question is, who does the defining? This is always plural and relative and operates within many different  spheres of interest, but it is probably fair to say that for centuries, the greater part of the accumulative imaginative construct of the North  has been defined by those who do not reside in the North. Now, while there is a long history of the stereotyped and labelled adopting the label as their own badge, and subverting its meaning to their own cause, this approach retains the unspoken, underlying presumption that approbation remains in the gift of the other, in this case, the non-Northerner.

So, how does the North shift from the current power relationship, so that it would not be remarkable for the North, as a collective voice, to act as though it held approbation of itself within its own ‘gift’, rather than appealing to the non-North for acceptance? This shift, or redefining, is cultural, both with a capital C and small c.  Self-approbating Northern Culture (with a capital C) could bring about a self- approbating everyday culture in the North (with a small c). In other words, Culture can be used to transform the public imagination of North from the position of an apologist, having to work for another’s approval, to a position where there exists a common-sense, taken granted presumption that the North is an equal partner within a small island nation.

Therefore, as a voice, the North needs to overcome the urge to enter into combative, comparative dialogue with the South. Adopting a comparative position perpetuates the North as an entity that seeks approval of the other, and in any case, in current circumstances, the social and economic odds will nearly always be stacked against the North. Rather, the promotion through Culture (with a capital C) of a self-assured North, one that has no need to denigrate others  in order to feel good about itself, begins to change how the North is defined in the everyday cultural imagination of those who have the privilege of living there. So the naïve question I would like to put is, ‘is it possible for a ‘North’ to exist outside of being defined against a ‘South’? And, if that is possible, what new types of self-definition could be opened up for our imagining?

Maggie Bullett, 01.12.2013

Long Term Rail Strategy for the North – HMF Response

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation has submitted a detailed response to Rail North’s consultation on Long Term Rail Strategy.

It is supportive of the overall approach but argues for a stronger vision for rail in the North with a directly-elected Northern Assembly overseeing rail, instead of the joint arrangements between 33 local authorities. It wants to see a not for dividend social enterprise running the North’s rail services, with profits recycled back into the business, providing improved facilities.

 

To read the full response, click here  LTRS Rail North HMF Response

Give rail powers to The North

 

21.45 Sunday October 20th 2013

PRESS RELEASE: (immediate)

The North needs a better, publicly-owned and accountable, railway

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation – the North’s campaign for regional devolution – has called for a major enhancement of the North’s rail network with rail services managed by a directly-elected Northern Assembly and run on a not-for-dividend basis.

In its response to the Rail North consultation on its ‘Long Term Rail Strategy’ the Foundation has called for “a compelling vision which puts a publicly-owned railway at the heart of a new North”. It argues for a programme of electrification and line re-openings which would provide the capacity and jobs the North urgently needs and could be delivered more quickly than HS2 – and bring greater benefits.

Prof. Paul Salveson, General Secretary of the Foundation, said “We would like to see the re-opening of the Ashington Blyth and Tyne and Leamside Lines in the North-East , Skipton-Colne, Penrith – Keswick, Bradford Cross-Rail, re-opening of the  Woodhead Route (Manchester – Sheffield) and new  lines to Fleetwood and Skelmersdale. Many locations could benefit from new stations and a Northern-wide ‘new stations strategy’ is needed.” He added that “we need to be more creative in our vision for stations which should become social, business and cultural centres as well as transport interchanges”.

His views were echoed by Foundation chair Barry Winter who said that rail in The North should be democratically accountable. “Our strong view is that Rail North should, in future, be answerable to a directly-elected Northern Assembly with a transport committee comprising elected members working closely with an experienced executive team. Rail North, with its 33 member authorities, each with their own agenda, demonstrates the need for a single pan-Northern elected body. Scotland has responsibility for its rail network and it has worked very well; so has Merseyside- the North as a whole should have the same.”

The Foundation argues that a new approach to rail in the North should put people before profit and point to the £108m profit made by the two Northern franchises last year, despite public subsidies totalling over £600m. “We want to see a future Northern Railways which is owned by the people of the North of England – passengers and employees – and not private shareholders whose prime concern is short-term profit, said Paul Salveson. “We think this could be achievable relatively quickly, when the current franchise ends in 2016 – and we invite interested organisations and individuals to work with us to achieve it.”  Ends/ For more information ring Paul Salveson 07795 008691

Note for editors

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is a broadly-based campaign for Northern devolution, supported by many Northern MPs and peers. Linda Riordan (MP for Halifax) is president of the Foundation. The Foundation was founded in March 2012 to lobby for devolution to the North of England and is rapidly building up support across the North of England. Its patrons include Lord Prescott, several MPs and the grandson of Hannah Mitchell. Hannah (1871-1946) was a radical activist who was imprisoned during the agitation for women’s votes. She went on to become a popular councillor in the Newton Heath ward of Manchester. Although she had just two weeks of formal schooling she was a talented writer.

Socialism with a Northern Accent

This book by HMF secretary Paul Salveson demonstrates the emergence of a distinctive ‘Northern Socialism’ in the 19th century that was democratic, de-centralist and inclusive. At its heart was the Independent Labour Party and its vision of a ‘larger socialism’; it was about much more than just voting – it involved singing, cycling trips, country rambles (and mass trespasses) and a celebration of life and spirit.

The book makes the case for a modern, 21st century politics which gives the North real power over its future, through democratic regional government and a new, radical centre-left politics.

The book is available price £14.99 from publishers Lawrence and Wishart: www.lwbooks.co.uk

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Politics and Music: The personalities of the North

Most Shane Meadows films build towards an epic and decisive scene of violence. The Stone Roses have a turbulent history. The rational reaction to a Shane Meadows film about the Stone Roses is probably to duck for cover.

Yet this wasn’t my reaction to seeing the trailer. From which I learnt that Tom Howard of the NME has written that “grown men will cry” upon seeing the film, which is released on 5 June. Never mind the film, the 2 minutes and 17 seconds of the trailer are enough to move me. “Why are they”, as a fan asks during the trailer, “so important to people? You know and I know but you can’t write it down, can you?”

When put like that, it seems foolish to even try to write down why I feel as I do when I watch the trailer. But I am going to try, anyway. Most obviously and fundamentally, the Stone Roses are a great, life-affirming band. They are also one that, after their acrimonious breakup, many thought they would never see live again. There is a sense of answered prayers about seeing them on stage again.

But could they have existed at all if not hewn from the rich topsoil of Manchester? Could the Stone Roses possibly have come from anywhere else? If not then is not part of the reason for the importance of the Stone Roses where they come from?

As Jarvis Cocker, another indie icon, once said on the South Bank Show (after 5 minutes and 30 seconds): “I think Sheffield’s got a personality”. What can be said of Sheffield can also be said of Manchester. The easy charm and swagger of Ian Brown is the charm and swagger of Manchester. The self-depreciation and wry observation of Jarvis Cocker speak of Sheffield’s personality.

While the Stone Roses and Pulp embody the personalities of Manchester and Sheffield, it is less clear that the governance of these cities also expresses these personalities. The splendour of Manchester Town Hall seems more a reflection of the self-assurance of bygone city leaders, rather than mirroring the contemporary belief of the Stone Roses. The people of Manchester may see themselves in the Stone Roses but those nominally in charge of the city are beholden to national leaders for the powers and resources necessary to further improve their wonderful city.

Ian Brown has famously observed that Manchester has everything except a beach but, actually, compared to similarly sized cities in other countries, it also lacks political power over its own destiny. This can be traced back to Margaret Thatcher’s time in government, as Paul Salveson, General Secretary of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, wrote in Socialism with a Northern Accent: “As regional inequality was growing, the ability of local government to defend working people was also being undermined.”

One of the most eye-opening aspects of Salveson’s book for me is its documenting of a wide-ranging, northern, socialist, cultural tradition – including the working-class writers of fiction and poetry, often in dialect, the socialist newspapers and speaking tours, the Clarion cycling clubs, the importance of the countryside and the co-operative movement.

We might see Brown and Cocker as poets. Certainly as working class lads done good. But, as they infrequently comment publicly on politics, it would probably be a stretch to see them as explicitly part of a northern, socialist, cultural tradition.

Equally, they are massive presences on the cultural landscape of the north. It reaffirms me in my confidence in the native genius of the northern people that they are so. Possessed of these qualities, these people have nothing to fear and everything to gain from a more devolved political settlement.

The change could be so dramatic as to be the stuff of Shane Meadow’s next documentary. For now I eagerly anticipate his film on the Stone Roses and wish that the north had political leadership as dynamic and ground-breaking as the Stone Roses are as band.

Jonathan Todd is a former ministerial advisor and senior consultant at Europe Economics. An economist with high-level policy and political experience, he remains an associate at Europe Economics, Demos and ESL UK. He also writes for Labour Uncut. Currently he is undertaking a pioneering research project for UK Music on the economic contribution of the music industry to the British economy. @jonathan_todd

Report on “A Voice for the Northern Economy” IPPR North Conference

Many supporters of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation and readers of this website are familiar with the excellent work of the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR North) www.ippr.org/north and its collaboration with the Northern Economic Futures Commission (NEFC). Its report ‘Northern Prosperity is National Prosperity’ provides a vast amount of national and international research. It highlights the reasons why the northern economy has been in long-term decline and signposts a range of proposals for a better, fairer, future for the North. Interestingly, it identifies the Northern region of England, as does the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, as the North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber.

This was the focus for the conference, ‘A Voice for the Northern Economy’, held in Leeds by IPPR North on 28 January 2013. The keynote speaker was Rachel Reeves MP for Leeds West, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Neil McLean Chair of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) responded.

Read more of the report by Jenny Cronin here A Voice for the Northern Economy. IPPR North Conference (Opens a word document)

A northern-wide body with big powers devolved from London

Rachel Reeves is a woman to watch. The Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury is rapidly becoming a candidate to succeed Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls should a change be needed before the election. The Leeds West MP made an important speech on rebalancing England’s economy in the city recently. It had a lot of good analysis about how the government have sucked money out of the North and the need for investment in skills and apprenticeships.

But then came the first clear signal that we have got from Labour since 2010 on how they see the future structure of devolution in the North. Reeves condemned the abolition of Regional Development Agencies but then announced that Labour had no intention of dismantling what she herself called “the patchwork” of organisations and funding streams that had been set up since. Explicitly she said the Local Enterprise Partnerships would stay. So there we have it, parochial, underfunded, underpowered LEPs are going to stay. Labour hasn’t even been prepared to listen to the case for a northern wide body with big powers devolved from London on issues like transport, skills and economic investment.

This won’t please Chris Glen, Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in West Yorkshire. He has scathing criticism of the Leeds LEP saying it has had “limited impact”. He refers to reports that Yorkshire has the second lowest rate of construction in the UK and the region is tenth out of twelve regions for attracting inward investment from larger private sector companies. Warming to his work Mr Glen says Leeds LEP has had poor engagement with small businesses and needs to be more transparent. Perhaps Rachel Reeves should have listened to Mr Glen before committing a potential Labour government to endorse these fragile vehicles for economic recovery.

Jim Hancock

Jim Hancock is former Political Editor of BBC North West. He has been a broadcaster on politics for over thirty years, and interviewed every Prime Minister from Harold Wilson to David Cameron.