At least everybody is talking about regional devolution.
Well, when I say everybody, I probably mean mainly politicians and business leaders-
I’m not sure it really is the hot topic in the pubs and round the watercoolers of the North and that’s part of the problem.
Though programmes like the Look North’s “What Next for the North” debate are a good start... and new figures showing 85% of people are in favour of more powers for the North East.
George Osborne has started talking about a Northern Powerhouse, building on many ideas originally mooted by Labour campaigners for decentralisation like Lord Andrew Adonis.
The Northern Powerhouse sounds like a nightclub.
A disco with lasers and holographic models of Nissan cars spinning as DJ Osborne drops some tunes with industrial clanging and banging on them, and drunk people lean their heads against the cold, grey, chrome pillars and wish they were at home having a cup of tea.
Bouncers Cameron and May bar the doors with their arms folded and say “If your name’s not on our list of donors, you’re not coming in”.
Meanwhile, typically the other thing hasn’t got a name.
Whatever it is that Labour and co are talking about.
Well, there’s Combined Authorities and Devo-More and regional voices in a Senate, but nothing that would make anybody who wasn’t already excited about Combined Authorities and Senates remotely interested in the fair and necessary devolution of powers on things like transport and training and education to the regions.
Even though IPPR figures show many infuriating things – for example, that £5426 per person is spent on infrastructure in London, against £223 in the North East. Then there’s the Mayors.
The Boris Johnsons or Ken Livingstones who will become voices for the North.
There is a bit that they have to do that isn’t currently in the job description but I think it’s the most important bit.
It’s the bit that the likes of Boris and Ken, despite their opposing places on the political spectrum, are really good at.
They have to win hearts and minds. Express a coherent vision and identity for a region that hasn’t often hasn’t got a clear one.
They have to speak to people who don’t read newspapers much and are not in political parties. Young people, disengaged people, the many vulnerable people who are suffering the effects of benefits cuts and care service cuts and rural transport cuts.
You know, the people who would never be allowed in the Northern Powerhouse because bouncer Cameron would tell them their trainers are too rubbish.
They need to come up with interesting names for things. Slogans. No wonder the North East Assembly didn’t happen.
Who wants to think about something that sounds like the boring bit at school where you had to sit still whilst a droning voice told you about the boy’s toilets being blocked and the maths exam taking place and how you had to get your forms in to go on the school trip?