Alistair Arkley column

ANYONE who thought a Gordon Brown Premiership might be dull and predictable after the Blair era will surely be thinking again.

ANYONE who thought a Gordon Brown Premiership might be dull and predictable after the Blair era will surely be thinking again.

Of course, no-one could have predicted the new Government would find itself in a terror alert within hours or that the country would be struggling with some of the worst floods in memory, something of which we had experience with one of our pubs two feet under water.

But to a degree these crises have diverted attention from some big decisions by our new Prime Minister.

Take his near revolutionary proposals for constitutional reform, including giving up powers. Did we ever think we would see that from a politician? These range from declaring war to appointing Church of England bishops and, significantly for the North-East, establishing a House of Commons Committee for each region, together with our own minister Nick Brown.

Then we had the Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears taking the “power to people” agenda into local government, with plans for pilots in 10 areas, including Newcastle and Sunderland, to give local people the chance to influence how council budgets are spent.

Of course, for those in business it might all seem pretty peripheral, but not so the other big Brown idea, creating an “administration of all the talents”, bringing into government non-professional politicians, from former CBI Director “Comrade” Digby Jones to surgeon Sir Ara Darzi, best known locally for his report on acute health services north and south of the Tees.

But Brown did not stop there and probably his most significant business announcement was the setting up of a Business Council for Britain which includes some powerful figures and a remit well beyond advising the Government.

Of course, there will be those who dismiss it as just Government window dressing, but it is hard to imagine big hitters such as Richard Branson, Rod Eddington, Alan Sugar and Terry Leahy signing up if they thought it would be a talking shop.

It will be interesting to see how local politicians respond. Could we see councils bringing in outsiders to their administrations or establishing a Business Council for the region? It’s an intriguing prospect.

Alistair Arkley is chairman of Northern Business Forum and of New Century Inns.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer