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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "East Midlands"

Neil O’Brien: Research and Development. We invest disproportionately in the first at the expense of the second. Here’s how to improve.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2020-01-12-at-18.42.42 Neil O’Brien: Research and Development. We invest disproportionately in the first at the expense of the second. Here’s how to improve. warwick Switzerland South West South East Slovenia Sheffield Richard Jones Research and Development Oxford North East London Korea Israel investment Highlights Higher Education Innovation Fund East Midlands Dominic Cummings Defence Czech Republic Columnists China Cambridge America

Neil O’Brien is MP for Harborough

Consider your smartphone. In one sense, a triumph of free market innovation. In another, a product of the US military-industrial complex.

As the left-wing economist Marianna Mazzacato points out, many technologies in your phone were developed by the US government for military use. The GPS you use to navigate to the chippy was developed to land nukes accurately on Soviet military targets. The internet we use to look at cat gifs was originally ARPANET, intended to make military communications resilient to nuclear attack.

Around the year 2000, the US Defence Advanced Projects Authority invested in research to develop a voice-activated assistant for the military. The technology was later commercialised and sold to Apple.

There are several lessons from the iPhone story: the role government can play in research by “pulling through” new technologies and commissioning things. The non-linear nature of research and the unpredictable way new technologies multiply one another.

I’m mentioning this now because government is thinking big about science, research and innovation.

Dominic Cummings now-famous blogpost seeking: “Data scientists and software developers, PhDs… in maths or physics… Weirdos and misfits with odd skills” made people notice it, but the Prime Minister’s intent has been pretty clear: the biggest new spending commitment announced during the election was to invest an extra £3.2 billion a year in on Research and Development (R&D) by 2023.

Boris Johnson is right to increase investment in R&D: we’ve slid from being a leading investor in research to somewhere at the back of the pack. Looking at public and private investment as a share of GDP, between the early 1980s and 2015 we plummeted down the OECD league table, from the 3rd heaviest investor to the 23rd.

Relatively poor countries like Slovenia and the Czech Republic now invest more of their national income in science. China substantially more. Leading innovators like Israel, Korea and Switzerland are racing away, investing twice as much as us. We spend just under 1.7 per cent GDP on R&D, and the Government’s goal is to get us up to the OECD average, around 2.4 per cent.

This matters because economists have increasingly recognised the central role of innovation in driving economic growth. Indeed, in 2018 Paul Romer won the economics Nobel Prize for his work on this point.

Government investment in R&D stimulates private sector investment: as we saw with the iPhone, innovations created for one reason by government can be repurposed by businesses. More researchers means a bigger pool of talent for firms to draw on. So the Prime Minister is quite right to invest more.

But we also need to change the way that the Government invests. There are two big problems that stop government investment having the beneficial effect it should.

Problem one: the Government’s spending is concentrated in the so called “golden triangle” of Oxford, Cambridge and London, rather than helping to “level up” poorer places where it might have more impact.

Problem two: UK government spending is weighted towards early stage, foundational research, rather than close-to-market development work (More “R” than “D” as it were). For decades politicians have lamented how breakthroughs made in Britain get commercialised elsewhere. But part of the problem is that we’re investing in a way that means they get the benefit of our research: of the money government spends on R&D in Britain 13 per cent goes on later phase development. In the US it’s 45 per cent, and in China 56 per cent.

These two problems are linked. “Pure” research tends be focussed on top universities in the golden triangle, rather than in firms themselves. That’s why the private sector’s own investment in research is much more balanced across the country than the government’s.

In London, for every pound of R&D investment by government and universities, the private sector invests just over a pound. In the West Midlands the ratio is quite different: businesses are investing five pounds for every government pound.

In 2017, the South East and London accounted for a third of all private business investment in R&D, and the midlands and north also accounted for a third. But the South East and London got 39 per cent of government and university investment, while the north and midlands got just 28 per cent.

This imbalance is driven by the core science budget: the Research Councils (which fund projects) and Quality Related “QR” funding, which universities allocate.

Of these core funding streams, a government analysis suggests nearly half (46 per cent) of grants in England have been going to just three cities: Oxford, Cambridge and London. As Professor Wilsdon of the University of Sheffield told a recent Select Committee inquiry: “there are observable trends towards greater concentration over the last 20 years.”

The graph of the top of this piece shows that per head, the big winners from the core science budget were London, the South East and Scotland, the three richest parts of the UK, where constraints on growth like housing costs and congestion bite hardest.

The graph also shows that when government spends in ways that are more joined up with industry, there’s a more even spread. Funding through Innovate UK (which does things like giving research grants to start up firms) sees places like the North East, South West and East Midlands doing relatively better. But this sort of spend is currently just a small part of the budget.

What to do about our two problems?

First, scale up existing funding channels that are more commercially focussed and better spread. Make sure a good proportion of the extra money goes to bodies like Innovate UK and things like SMART grants to start up firms.

Second, develop new channels that help pull through demand, which the US is so good at. Do what the Connell Review implied, and create a ringfenced budget to procure innovative products, as the US does. I’ve met firms who have used the US SBIR scheme and it has transformed their prospects to be able to say they have a contract with the US government.

Third, do more to build up research centres which genuinely bridge academia and industry. Richard Jones widely-discussed paper is right to say we should try to build on the success of places like the Advanced Manufacturing Centre in Sheffield and the Warwick Manufacturing Group. More mission-oriented centres like the Faraday Institution might be part of this. Government should review which of the “Catapult” centres are worth building on or not.

Fourth, we need to rethink university funding and incentives. Far more of universities’ research budgets should reflect their industrial work. For example, last year about three per cent of Oxford’s grants from Research England funded work with industry. Things like the Higher Education Innovation Fund, which supports work with business, should be a much larger share of their funding. Professional esteem and rankings should change too. One business-minded Vice Chancellor of a northern university lamented to me that his work to spin out new businesses and attract investment was given no value compared to the Research Excellence Framework rankings.

I could go on. There’s loads we can do to make research investment more effective. It’s great to have a dynamic new government that’s interested in and investing in research. If we play our cards right, we can create all kinds of opportunities for people right across the country.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Rachel Wolf: Where education reform has succeeded – and where it has failed

Rachel Wolf is a partner in Public First. She had co-charge of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. She was an education and innovation adviser at Number 10 during David Cameron’s premiership and was founding director of the New Schools Network.

A while ago my company did two in-depth projects looking at the attitude and understanding of parents with children at primary and secondary school. Most of the people we talked to were “C1 C2 D” – in other words, the people who just voted Conservative. These terms can seem a bit meaningless (and the difference between a C1 and a D is very large) so here are a a few examples: one of the men was a joiner and another drove a van; quite a few of the women had part-time administration jobs in local small businesses and a couple worked in shops.

(If this sounds sexist it is not meant to – it is just a fact that women with children from these backgrounds tend to work part time and get jobs to fit.)

I have been very involved in school reform for the past decade – including founding and running the main Free School organisation, New Schools Network. The conversations were an eye-opening measure of where we had succeeded and where, to date, we had failed.

Three discussions summed it up.

The first was with a group of enraged parents in Yorkshire. Their school was in special measures and there were no local alternatives. They had been told their school was a failure, that their children’s futures were probably blighted, but that they could do nothing. No one else seemed to be fixing the problem either. This is exactly what the academy programme was designed to address – it has worked brilliantly in some parts of the country, but we still struggle to get enough people to take over schools and turn them round in others – primarily outside of the South East and our major cities.

This is why Ofsted has just published a report on ‘stuck schools’ (those that have remained poor despite continued interventions and new leadership) with a proposal to do more to support them. Academies have not, at least yet, worked everywhere.

But it was noticeable that many of those stuck schools blamed parental disengagement (Ofsted made clear they couldn’t verify if this were true). I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with a school leader where the parents weren’t considered inadequate in some way – either too disengaged or too nagging.

Of course some schools must cope with suffering children with very troubled families. But most parents are not troubled, and in the case of the Yorkshire school they were neither disaffected or disengaged. They were impotent.

The second group was in London. It was a different world. Many of the parents fell over themselves to talk enthusiastically about particular schools. London schools have moved from being among the worst in my childhood to being the best in the country. A huge proportion of the schools that consistently get kids from very disadvantaged backgrounds (often from ethnic minorities) into elite universities are in London.

Free Schools, the project I was involved in during the coalition years, are one reason for this triumph, indeed what was striking about the London groups was how many parents could name individual free schools. Many of the best schools in the country are now Free Schools. But a lot of those – probably too many – are in London.

The third discussion was in the East Midlands. The parents we spoke to didn’t have children at terrible schools. But they weren’t particularly good either. All the schools were quite similar in standards and approach.

Those parents weren’t miserable – they didn’t know anyone who sent their kids to schools that were markedly different (private schools are another, foreign, world for these groups and are irrelevant in their mind). The primary parents dutifully did all the homework the school suggested. They were competent and loving – like almost every parent in the country. But we knew, looking at the data, that the children at these schools could be doing much, much, better.

These are the parents we have, in my view, most consistently failed in the last decade, and where we continue to have the least to say. We’ve done some important things – the children in those schools, for example, will be taught to read using better and more effective methods than a decade ago. But we haven’t empowered the parents to demand more for their children. The NHS has been on a ten year drive to help people take charge of their own health – including developing their own exercise programmes and detailed nutrition guides for children. We need the same in education. What should your children know? How do you hold your school to account? What is happening to pupils in other parts of the country?

Nor have we given them alternatives. The very original plan for Free Schools – which was to deliver new schools and therefore offer real choice– was supposed to help these areas and these parents. Instead, they focused on areas with population growth (mostly London and the South East).

In this next five years, I really hope that this quiet majority of parents and pupils are the focus of our new Conservative government. As I said in my last column, we have to remember – as we so often fail to do in education – that most people are neither part of the elite nor in troubled families. We should measure our success in the next five years not only on whether we help the most disadvantaged, but on how much better things are for most families in most areas of the country and opportunities that all children have to succeed.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

James Frayne: Tories need both policies and cultural strategies to bond with their new voters

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

The Conservative Party has a Midlands and Northern working-class and lower-middle-class base. But the Party is still culturally Southern posh, with practically no activist base in the North of England.

The Government was elected by people it doesn’t know well, while the Party represents seats most senior Conservatives couldn’t place on a map.

Over the last few years, I can think of only a tiny number of people who endorsed the pivot that delivered the Party’s great victory. Most Conservatives in Westminster thought the future lay in creating an offer to the young professional class in cities. This was, we were told, the politically sophisticated approach. But here we are. How should the party meet this challenge?

Above all, by becoming the party of labour – in its genuine sense. Let’s strip away the extremely serious but short-term political issues of Brexit and Corbyn’s extraordinary unpopularity. What binds together those working class and lower middle class voters that moved to the Conservatives is this: they work hard – they really labour – and they want to see that labour fairly rewarded.

For many years – certainly since the end of Gordon Brown’s time in politics – they haven’t felt the Labour Party has represented those that labour like them. Instead, they think Labour worries mostly about people that don’t work. The Conservatives have been the beneficiaries of that.

Just before the election, I watched some old YouTube videos of Tony Blair just before he became Prime Minister in 1997. That was the first election I followed, but I’d forgotten what it was like. I was staggered by Blair’s language. Ruthlessly focused on job creation, economic growth, fair taxes, and fair working conditions, it sounded culturally totally alien to the modern Labour Party’s obsessions with identity and rights. He spoke about looking after the livelihoods of those that labour and who worry about paying their bills.

Those that Blair successfully attracted to the Labour Party have vanished, even from the constituency he represented. If the Conservatives decide seriously to become the party of labour, it will set in train a series of other decisions that will improve lives in these areas and reap electoral rewards.

What does this mean in practice? Let’s separate the cultural from the policy-specific.

Culturally, it means that the Party should constantly think about four things: labour should be fairly rewarded; those that labour should be able to provide adequately for their families; those that labour should be able to live locally; and that those that labour should live in pleasant places. In summary, the Conservatives should obsess about ensuring those that live in these newly won constituencies can work and live in their areas – with their families – and feel safe and happy as they do so.

Thinking about policies, what does this mean? That taxes should be as low as possible, so people can keep more of their money; the welfare system should reward those that work hard more than those that choose not to (those that can’t work are a separate case and should be treated very generously); corporate taxes should be as low as possible, particularly in less affluent areas, to encourage investment; local schools, colleges and universities in less affluent areas should be prioritised to ensure the local workforce is well-educated and highly skilled; the tax system should not make it harder for people to buy houses locally (throughout their lives, not least as they downsize); crime and anti-social behaviour should be tackled robustly; and high streets should be re-purposed to provide entertainment, not just consumer goods. There are clearly many more, but here’s a start.

The manifesto floated ideas that will help tackle these challenges. It was well thought-through and perfectly targeted. But there were areas that the party dodged, for understandable reasons. They ultimately avoided serious welfare reform and the introduction of a contributory model; their tax policies were quite timid, particularly for businesses; education and skills policies need greater detail; and policies to boost local high streets also now need serious attention.

But the job now is not to win an election but to improve these areas and keep working class voters for the longer-term. They should therefore treat the manifesto as the guiding light, not the final blueprint.

But it won’t be enough simply to enact policies. The Conservative Party needs to build an infrastructure to help them build an advocacy and fundraising framework across the Midlands and North. The experiences of Dominic Cummings and Danny Kruger will be crucial here. Cummings because, with his uncle, he personally built business support for the North East Says No campaign against a Regional Assembly in 2004. He created a small-c conservative network somewhere with few activists. And Kruger because of his extensive experience working with independent, voluntary groups who engage in social policy.

The Conservatives are going to struggle to simply recruit activists like they do in the South, with meetings in nice pubs and summer parties in donors’ gardens. In the Midlands and North, above all, they will need to harness business support and non-state social activist groups.

But this in turn takes us back to culture. If the top of the Party is still essentially Southern posh, how will it make the right decisions? Actually, the adviser class is remarkably provincial. At Number 10, Dominic Cummings, Munira Mirza, and Lee Cain all come from the North of England. Elena Narozanski’s spiritual home lies in the East Midlands. Across the departments, a number of advisers like Alex Wild come from the provinces.

But the Party will also need to create a federation of think tanks, campaigns, politicians, businesspeople, and voluntary groups who both understand these newly-won areas and who have a desire to improve lives here. The scale of the challenge is vast, but ultimately it’s a “good problem” to have. And the Conservatives have shown they’re capable of appealing to these voters.

One last thing: if the Conservatives don’t deliver Brexit then all of the above is irrelevant.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

The local elections revisited: an analysis of results in the East Midlands

Our series, on the impact of the local elections on the political parties in different regions, continues. This week we consider the East Midlands.

Among unitary authorities Leicester, Nottingham and Rutland had all their seats contested. Derby had a third contested as did Milton Keynes.

Among the district councils there were no elections for Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, South Northamptonshire and Wellingborough. That is because those councils are being abolished –
along with Northamptonshire County Council. Instead, there will be two new unitary authorities. The North Northamptonshire unitary will cover Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough and the West Northamptonshire unitary will cover Daventry, Northampton and South Northamptonshire.

Anyway, the following district councils had all there seats up for election:

  • Ashfield
  • Bassetlaw
  • Blaby
  • Bolsover
  • Broxtowe
  • Charnwood
  • Chesterfield
  • Derbyshire Dales
  • East Lindsey
  • East Staffordshire
  • Erewash
  • Gedling
  • Harborough
  • High Peak
  • Hinckley and Bosworth
  • Mansfield
  • Melton
  • Newark and Sherwood
  • North Kesteven
  • North East Derbyshire
  • North West Leicestershire
  • Rushcliffe
  • South Derbyshire
  • South Holland
  • South Kesteven
  • West Lindsay

For a couple of districts only a third of seats were up for election: Amber Valley and Lincoln.

Conservatives

Given the bad news elsewhere the results in this region wasn’t too bad. North East Derbyshire was gained by the Conservatives from Labour. In that one Council there were 13 seats gained by the Conservatives. Lee Rowley has written about it for us here.

North Kesteven was less cheering. In that Council, the Conservatives lost eight seats – and control of the Council – to independents. The Council still has a Conservative leader but is now run by a coalition. It does seem that dismay about the failure to deliver Brexit was an important factor. The Linconshire Independnets say that people were “fed up with voting for one thing and getting another, ending in a party political shambles.”

The Conservatives also lost control of Broxstowe – losing seats to Labour, the Lib Dems and independents. The behaviour of the local MP will scarcely have helped. There are other councils where we started in a strong position and only narrowly hung on after heavy losses – Derbyshire Dales, for example.

There were modest gains in Newark and Sherwood. But in the vast majority of other district councils there were modest losses. The Conservatives were fortunate to be in a sufficiently strong starting position that usualy they could be absorbed without losing power.

Derby saw the Conservatives gain a seat while Labour lost six. It will continue as a minority Conservative administration.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems gained Hinckley and Bosworth direct from the Conservatives. The Conservatives lost ten seats – none to the Lib Dems, one to Labour.

Usually, the pattern has been that the Lib Dem revival has been at the expense of the Conservatives rather than Labour. However, in Chesterfield there was quite a big shift. Labour lost ten seats, including eight to the Lib Dems.

Labour

If you wanted to make a film out of any of the local election results then Bolsover would surely be the one to pick. Labour lost 14 councillors, which meant losing control of the Council. Among the victors was Ross Walker – “a newly elected independent councillor who became visibly emotional. A bricklayer who was already a parish councillor, Walker’s voice faltered and broke as he celebrated becoming a district councillor for the first time. He wept as he explained his political career began when the council cut down a sycamore tree commemorating his grandfather, who fought on D-day.”

Ashfield saw Labour lose 20 seats to independents. They only have a couple of councillors left. Pretty astonishing. Of course, there was Brexit as the obvious explanation. But it fed in with themes about Labour “taking us for granted” and “not listening”. A much-loved town clock was removed under a town regeneration scheme. There was an outcry, which Labour ignored. When the independents took over it was taken out of storage and put back.

Nottingham City Council saw Labour lose three seats to independents – but they still won by a landslide. In Leicester they were back with all but one of the seats. As noted above they did less well in Derby but Labour generally is maintaining dominance in the cities while falling back in the towns and villages – not just in this region but elsewehere.

Labour gained High Peak from the Conservatives. Also Amber Valley. These are both councils that has long been competitve between the main parties. So they were important gains for Labour to notch up.

Conclusion

This region saw some of the most spectacular upsets in terms of Labour setbacks – Bolsover really stands out. Yet it also showed Labour making some predictable gains and and remaining impenetrable in some of its other safe” areas. Lib Dems progress and Conservative setbacks were widespread but rather dull. It was the independents who provided the “wow factor.”

 

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Onward, Hancock – and the delusion of leadership candidates retreating to their comfort zone

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

Reading Matt Hancock’s piece in the Sunday Times a couple of weekends ago previewing Onward’s interesting new publication, Generation Why, and watching a clip of his speech at the publication’s launch, reminded me why I gave up talking to people in politics about football nearly 20 years ago.

A weird link? Let me explain. There comes a time when, despite theoretically sharing an interest in the same subject, you have so little actual shared experience of that subject that it becomes impossible to have any sort of meaningful conversation about it. You might as well be talking to each other in a foreign language.

As a youth of 16 or 17, playing at the bottom of the non-league pyramid, my favourite place to play was Heanor Town. For those that don’t know the East Midlands, Heanor is a small town in the North of Derbyshire. The football pitch was located at the top of the slope of the cricket pitch. While badly sloped, the pitch was impeccably cut whatever the weather (usually cold or freezing), the floodlights worked, and the dressing rooms had the intense smell of deep heat. Most importantly, the locals absolutely loved football and sport in general. Heanor was a football town.

When you talked to the locals about football, they didn’t just talk about Man Utd or Derby or Forest; of course, they did talk about them, but they’d be as happy talking about the last game against Kimberley Town, or Jeff Astle’s last song on Fantasy Football, or how Notts County fans moaned all the time. In short, when talking about football there was a shared understanding that you were talking about the game as a whole. It was expected that everyone knew practically everything there was to know about the game since they were a child – about players, fans, grounds, songs, old kits and all the rest.

When I arrived in London politics, full as it was with privately educated, mostly Southern staff that hadn’t played much, that shared understanding was totally absent. While many professed a love of the game, their entire way of speaking about it was alien. They’d talk almost entirely about the top of the game over the last few years since they became interested or – increasingly and weirdly – about football statistics. Nobody knew what the Anglo-Italian Cup was, let alone the FA Vase. And because nobody had really played at school, nobody knew what it was like to get hit on the thigh with a Mitre Multiplex in January. The Fast Show’s “I love football” sketch was no longer an amusing parody, but reality. Talking about football was a bizarre and depressing experience. So I stopped.

Which takes me back to Hancock’s article and speech. In giving advice to the Conservatives in appealing to the young, he wrote: “First, we need to get our tone right. Sometimes Conservatives can sound, as Ruth Davidson succinctly put it, a bit ‘dour’. Of course, it’s our job to be the pragmatists, but nobody wants to hang out with the person always pointing out the problems, rather than the one hopeful about the solutions…” At the event, he said:  “As well as delivering better economic prospects for people, we’ve got to sound like we actually like this country. We’ve got to patriots for the Britain of now, not the Britain of 1940. And enough about being just comfortable with modern Britain, we need to champions of modern Britain.”

Just as I found it increasingly difficult to relate to most of the privately-educated, metropolitan Conservatives talking about football, hearing this, I found myself similarly thinking that I have literally nothing in common with the same sorts of people’s views on politics. It’s as if we’ve grown up in entirely different worlds. Honestly, how can anyone think that the British people are collectively optimistic, happy-go-lucky, and modernity-obsessed? How can anyone seriously think that this is the best way to engage with people? How can they imagine themselves walking into the average pub, shopping centre or call centre canteen and connecting with ordinary people with such a case? 

Ordinary people don’t want to hear about 1940 or about life before large-scale immigration; most are happy with the people they live amongst. But they also emphatically don’t want to hear politicians droning on about how great the future is going to be and how technology and 3D printing is going to change everything for the better. It’s just not how they think about the world and not how they talk about it.

Look at what most working class and lower middle class people really think about things – those that make up the bulk of electorate. They think: that the economy is, at best fine, but that they see little of the benefits of growth; that long-term careers are a relic of the past; that good pensions have gone and that a long retirement is just a dream; that home ownership is increasingly unattainable; that the cost of living is too high; that their town centres are boring; that the NHS is over-burdened and under-funded and might fail them when the time comes; that crime is rising and police numbers are falling; that their savings will get raided to pay for social care; that childcare is ruinously expensive; and they think that politicians are out of touch thieves. While this is more prevalent amongst the old in provincial England, it’s actually common everywhere.

Why get so worked up over one little speech and an article? Because it’s clear that the Conservative Party is preparing to return to its recent comfort zone – using claims of a broad appeal to the young, which would be reasonable, to justify an appeal to the tiny number of successful, highly affluent, urban voters who are basically like those at the top of the Party. It’s dressed up as daring and confrontational, but is in fact just about following a path of least-resistance in the Party, while making those that make the case feel good about themselves. If Hancock is so sure this plays well, Heanor are home to Gedling Miners Welfare on Saturday. I’m sure they’d love to hear from him.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

John Downer: Scrapping HS2 wouldn’t help the North, it would cut a vital lifeline to the regional economies

John Downer is a Director of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders (HSRIL), a group of companies and organisations which is committed to supporting the successful delivery of a world-class high speed rail network in Britain.

Every few months – and more often recently– comes the call to scrap HS2 and spend the money on something else.

And we’ve had it again this week on these very pages, reiterating previous suggestions that the Midlands and the North would be better served by investment in regional transport links.

But, however tempting it might be to spend the budget of a few billions per year on something else, there is little more the Government could do to jeopardise the economic prospects of cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds than scrap a project which is so fundamental to their future economic development.

For the most important thing to understand about HS2 is that it is not just a railway. It is an economic regeneration project (and the most important economic regeneration project in Britain for decades) which is catalysing a whole host of other investments in its wake.

What holds Britain back today is not the connections from big cities to London, but poor connections between the other big cities. Services between cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, and Newcastle are slow, unreliable, and overcrowded – and HS2 is absolutely integral to tackling this.

Remember your visit to Birmingham for the Party Conference in October? The cranes and building works were everywhere. Just outside the conference centre you saw the new headquarters of HSBC. Around the corner PwC is building their Midlands base, their biggest single investment outside London.

In Leeds, you have major new investment from Burberry and a whole South Bank regeneration for which HS2 is intrinsic. There are similar stories in Manchester and Liverpool too. And then ask the city leaders, from all political parties, how important HS2 is to triggering that investment, and unanimously they will tell you it is vital. Indeed, the project has no greater champion than Andy Street, Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands.

HS2 is about giving our great cities of the Midlands and the North the springboard to be the economic powerhouses of the future. Put harshly, without HS2, Britain has no strategy to grow our regional economies and no industrial strategy worthy of the name.

For HS2 trains won’t just reach those cities where the new line is being built. They will link into the rest of the network too, meaning that the services will reach 8 of the 10 biggest cities in Britain, reaching places like Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh that are far from the construction of the line itself.

That’s not to say the other transport investment people call for isn’t needed too. It is. And the Government is to be supported in the priority they are attaching to the Northern Powerhouse Rail project to improve east/west links across the north. But far from being an alternative to local transport investment, HS2 is a pre-requisite for it to be successful.

To take one specific example, the West Coast Mainline is presently jam-packed. Passenger numbers on the route have more than doubled since it was last upgraded just 15 years ago, and there is simply no space to add new trains whether for commuters and inter-city travellers or for more freight off the motorways and onto rail. Building HS2 will move the inter-city traffic onto the new line, freeing up capacity for vital local, regional, and commuter services, so passengers in places like Milton Keynes and Coventry will benefit from HS2 as it will improve their commutes into London and Birmingham respectively.

More widely still, the benefit of HS2 supply chain contracts are already being felt across the UK. Nus Ghani MP, the HS2 Minister, is hosting an event in Parliament next week to meet HS2 suppliers, and they come from far-and-wide, not just from the line of route.

Already more than 2000 companies have worked on HS2. There are archaeologists from Bristol, ecological experts from Cardiff, and earth-moving contractors from Buckinghamshire. There are already two suppliers in Northern Ireland, 25 in Scotland and 65 in the South West. HS2 is a truly national project with truly national benefits, and those benefits will only grow over the coming years.

For these businesses, the costs of cancelling HS2 right now would be enormous. Over 7,000 people are working on the project already, and that will become tens of thousands over the next couple of years, with 70 per cent of those jobs outside London. Cancelling it now would literally mean filling-in the freshly dug holes in Birmingham and Euston, and laying off all the apprentices working on site. Is that a serious proposition?

All things considered, HS2 is about joining Britain back together again, after a number of years when our divisions have been more prominent than our unity. It is essential for the UK, and even more vital still for the Midlands and the North which stand to gain the most.

The project is underway. The train has started its journey. Let’s makes sure it reaches its destination and that taxpayers wring every last ounce of benefit from it.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com