Let's re-discover Attlee's sense of national missionby Stephen Kinnock / March 22, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
This government’s assumption that a growing economy will benefit everyone is flawed. Such thinking has always prevailed in Whitehall. It has perpetuated the damaging view that it doesn’t matter if growth is driven by a limited number of regionally-confined sectors.
The result is that our economy is dangerously skewed towards London and the southeast, regions that thrive on consumption rather than production, on services rather than manufacturing, and are the only parts of the country to see growth at pre-crash levels.
The productivity gap between north and south has widened to 35 per cent: an unforgivable disparity that is even more apparent in infrastructure investment. In 2017, the government cancelled rail electrification projects in the northwest and across South Wales, only to announce—one week later—that it would pour £30bn into Crossrail 2 in London. In 2018, London will receive £4,155 per person in transport investment—in Yorkshire & Humber the figure is £844.
Years of under-investment in our industrial heartlands shaped the divisions and resentments that delivered Brexit. The defining mission of the Labour Party must be to re-unite our fragmented country, and that must start with investment in infrastructure.
A consequence of Brexit will be the loss of the soft loans that we receive through the European Investment Bank and the European Infrastructure Fund. This makes the need for the National Investment Bank and National Infrastructure Fund even more vital. Labour is already leading the way. The Conservatives have jumped on Labour’s 2013 Armitt Review, which set up a National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), to depoliticise and stabilise infrastructure policy.
The priority for infrastructure planning must be to combine th…