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My take on the election announcement for the NE
On Tuesday I was shocked but impressed by the Prime Minister’s decision to hold a General; Election in June.
Mrs. May has proved to be a capable and decisive leader. Her style is also markedly different to Cameron/Osborne and I expect to see a straightforward manifesto that will enable her to govern in her own right with an emphasis on policies that build on the fundamental strength of the economy to spread wealth and opportunity.
I also expect to see a Labour campaign based on envy and division. We had a preview of this in recent weeks with some populist policies that would be ineffective and damaging. Labour’s 50% top tax rate will be a disincentive to entrepreneurs and in the last budget it was disclosed top taxpayers are now paying a higher proportion of income tax revenues than ever due to the lower 45% rate. Taxing private school fees will raise hardly any cash and even that won’t be spent in state school classrooms but on school dinners. That a North East Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, was the first to rule out standing again should come as no surprise. He wasn’t frightened, merely principled. Why subject the people of the North to a Corbyn Government when the Prime Minister is positioned to reflects their views?
On Brexit, Mrs. May has pursued a clear mandate given to her by almost every part of the North East. On the economy, unemployment has fallen – even post Brexit – down form 110,000 a few years ago to under 80,000 today. The number of businesses in the North East is up – from 135,000 two years ago to 147,000 today. These businesses need and want stability and, in my view, the best way to achieve it is to stick with Mrs. May.
Labour is struggling for workable policy ideas in a political landscape that Mrs May is, rightly in my view, dominating. Theresa May was schooled in parliamentary politics here in the North East. She and I ran for parliament in the region in 1992, and she was always fascinated by how the economy here works. That is why Mrs May has followed through on the best of the Northern Powerhouse ideas. The devolution happening on Teesside is already paying off. More resources have arrived, a new Mayor is being elected and there is a sense of momentum. Who knows what will happen in the Mayoral election, after all, it is being conducted using the AV system. But in conventional politics things are changing. Just as Mrs May’s Conservatives won a by-election in Cumbria, last week they pulled off a surprise victory in the heart of Middlesbrough. In the early hours of Good Friday morning, they won a by-election in Coubly Newham ward with a vote share that went up by 8.3%. It was the first time a Labour ward has turned Conservative since the new unitary Middlesbrough Council was created.
The mood music for the North East is good. We have a rising and increasingly diverse economy. But an economy in which people want less Europe and more common sense. An economy in which the rules allow us to build a British-made bridge over the Wear and not be mandated by EU tendering to float prefabricated parts across the North Sea. An economy in which EU green policies don’t hinder our manufacturers and kill off steel plants. Mrs May has read the Brexit runes and has been developing Brexit, export and industrial policies that will deliver the results people expect and deserve.
Brexit, a growing economy, recent tax cuts and falls in unemployment have the Prime Minister in the right place at a critical time for Britain. That she has a common touch and lacks the pomposity or vanity so common in top politicians is to her enormous credit. Mrs May has style and substance to her approach and it appears to be a winning formula.
Although I’m sick of the frequency of the big elections of late; this election can genuinely claim to be the most important in my voting lifetime. If Mrs May wins then I will sleep at night knowing our country is in good hands to face the numerous challenges in the years ahead.