LEVEL UP THE TOWNS
At last Wigan’s Lisa Nandy has been given the right job in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. I never understood why the woman who had championed the cause of northern towns was given the foreign affairs brief.
It was one of the best moves in Sir Keir Starmer’s latest reshuffle which has seen the elimination of the remaining Corbynistas from the highest levels of the party. Lancaster MP Cat Smith quit claiming the denial of the Labour whip to Jeremy Corbyn was “utterly unsustainable” The hard left is still present in large numbers amongst the grassroots and will only be silenced if Starmer manages to establish a big mid term poll lead. He is a long way from doing that which is worrying for Labour considering the recent performance of the Prime Minister.
Lisa Nandy will now be tested against the clever Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. She knows where it all went wrong for Labour in the North. The neglect of the forgotten towns amid an exclusive emphasis on the cities, and an obsession with woke issues that have little traction in communities struggling to get by. The government’s levelling up agenda has lost focus following alarm that southern Tory voters have not reacted well to it. Nandy needs to expose the broken promises on issues like rail investment, but she also needs to explain what Labour’s regional policy will be. People are far more interested in what Labour would do differently than the easy Punch and Judy show of politics.
Nandy should be pushing for the sort of regional structure proposed, but not completed by John Prescott over a decade ago. Updated for the current world where the green agenda and inclusivity are much more important, Labour should favour development agencies Mark 2 in the North West, North East and Yorkshire focused on the needs of towns, cities and rural areas with major devolved powers and funds. Their priorities and accountability should be the job of elected assemblies whose leaders should work with the sub regional mayors. All local government should be unitary.
OTHER NORTHERN MOVERS IN THE SHAKE UP
Northern firms should welcome the appointment of Jonathan Reynolds as Shadow Business Secretary. The Stalybridge and Hyde MP may find bosses more willing than he expects to give Labour a hearing. This government has hardly been a friend to business. The way Johnson performed at the CBI conference said it all.
Reynolds neighbour in Ashton, Angela Rayner continues to be a thorn in the leader’s side. The Deputy Leader has the talent to break through with Red Wall voters, but she is generally associated with unhelpful stories about being side-lined and calling Tories scum.
Downtown recently hosted an event with London MP Wes Streeting and Urmston’s Kate Green. Our guests have gone their separate ways. Streeting, who works closely with Downtown, is promoted to Shadow Health Secretary whilst Kate has lost her post as Shadow Education Secretary which is a shame.
With Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) and Jim McMahon (Oldham) also retaining Shadow Cabinet jobs, there are five representatives from Greater Manchester in Starmer’s team and none from Liverpool.
For better or worse, the hard left has been sent a signal.