Graeme Whitfield: There are few things worse than a smug Tory

The Journal's business editor on why the post-election stability might not last too long

Graeme Whitfield
Graeme Whitfield

The last two weeks have provided more than a few reminders of that old adage that there are few things worse than a smug Tory.

Whatever people’s political persuasions, there appears to be a general consensus among the business community that the election result at least brought us some certainty.

With neither of the main political parties having too many friends, a hung parliament would clearly have led to some fairly interminable political bartering that would have dwarfed the 2010 post-election power vacuum.

So the unexpected Conservative majority has the benefit of letting people know where they are for the next five years. With Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP in a degree of disarray, the Government can persue its programme without too much opposition.

Yet I wouldn’t bet it on it being plain sailing for too long.

For one thing, the Conservative victory means that the starting gun has already been fired on the EU referendum. This week along we have seen high profile interventions on the subject from the CBI, the German finance minister and assorted bosses at large UK companies (Airbus, JCB and Marks and Spencer). That’s all since Tuesday. Fancy another two years of that? Get used to it.

The election result has also thrown up difficulties for David Cameron within the UK. His tactic of highlighting the dangers of a Labour-SNP alliance won him votes in England and cost Labour votes in Scotland, but it has created a dangerously disunified Union.

The SNP would have every right to campaign for a new independence referendum in the Holyrood elections next year and would certainty have the political momentum on its side. As a border region, the North East stands to be disproportionately affected by what happens in Scotland so firms here will be watching events with some trepidation.

Finally we have the Northern Powerhouse. All three main parties talked before the election about the need to re-balance the economy to this region and now the Tories have to deliver.

This is probably where the North East has fared best since May 7. The suspicion has long been that efforts to boost the North might be concentrated on the M62 corridor and its largest cities: Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield.

But the appointment of Stockton MP James Wharton to be Minister responsible for the Northern Powerhouse gives the North East the chance to overcome its slight geographical isolation and ensure we are at the centre of whatever benefits come North.

So the election has brought us stability of a sort as long as rows over Europe, Scotland, the South and the rest of the North don’t count.

Still, at least those Tories won’t be able to stay smug for too long.


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