Coffee House

Does the South East need its own party?

3 December 2012

Kelvin MacKenzie wants a British version of the Italy’s Northern League. His aim is to have a Southern Party that would push for home rule for London and the South East and oppose fiscal transfers from the South East to the rest of the country.

The piece is classic MacKenzie polemic. But it does speak to the growing regionalisation of British politics, a subject that Neil O’Brien addressed for us in his final piece before becoming an adviser to George Osborne.

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Outside of London, Labour only have four MPs in the South East and in the European elections, Labour came fifth in the region — behind even the Greens. For their part, the Tories are on the verge of extinction in the urban north and hold just two seats in the North East.

This political polarisation is one of the reasons that we appear to have entered an era that will be characterised by hung parliaments and narrow majorities. If the various bits of the country continue to grow apart politically and economically, then the fabric of the country will become increasingly stretched.

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Show comments
  • james higham

    EU agenda, pure and simple. Break England up into 9 regions – divide and rule.

  • Slicer

    “His aim is to have a Southern Party that would push for home rule for London and the South East and oppose fiscal transfers from the South East to the rest of the country”

    Wealth transfers should be stopped. It’s not sustainable to keep taxing those that produce and reducing their standard of living just to keep up a pretence of nationhood. Globalisation has rendered the nation state more or less irrelevant. Increasingly nations will lose their identities, particularly in the western world with their low birth rates and ageing populations. To sustain the welfare state and pensions the UK will need more immigrants or a massive baby boom. A baby boom is unlikely. So it looks like the UK will continue to be dependant on immigrants to generate economic growth. Scotland, Wales and the north east of England have had the lowest take of immigrants over the last 40 years and have some of the highest percentage of old people in the UK. They can expect to have large numbers of immigrants inflicted upon them in the coming years, as there is little room in London or the South East.

  • michael

    The south east is all but an outpost of Brussels now anyway…no great loss.

  • Stan Northener.

    Where abouts in the UK do the bankers live who cost the country billions ?

  • eeore

    Kelvin McKenzie…. nuff said really.

  • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

    At last someone in the Freakshow who has actually bothered to look at the electoral map but I would raise one point. The Tories problems are not limited to northern urban seats but all urban seats. They won none or struggled in Birmingham, Nottingham. Leicester, Coventry. Southampton, Plymouth, Exeter, Luton and in London where despite Boris they made no advances in the Labours urban strongholds (places like Croydon North) despite Labour having their worst electoral performance as a Government ever.

    Do we need a seperate party in the South? I don’t think so. I believe that the south and north have sufficient in common not to need seperate representation. However I believe all regions of England need representation against the three establishment parties not least to reverse the democratic deficit imposed in 1998 by Labour and sustained by the Coalition and resolving the English question is only the start. The problem we face is a cabal three rigid intransigent establishment parties who whatever the issue always puts the electorate below the parties ,the governments and the many vested interests needs. It has to stop.

    Now there are parties from both left and right that can fulfil that role and replace the establishment parties. Yes they are raw an inexperienced but they will only get the necessary experience if people believe in them and quite frankly we might as well believe in othem because only fools would believe in the three establishment parties or the government these

    • Dimoto

      Utterly unbelievable that this festival of sound, fury and parochialism should have been kicked up by the puerile musings of the half-wit, busted flush that is McKenzie.
      I bet Murdoch is having a good guffaw. Desperate stuff.

  • dalai guevara

    Excellent way of turning the real issue on its head – is it not rather the other way round? Why do we need to have all media, FTSE HQ’s, lawmaking, banking, government et al in one location? Why not decentralise and create a web of sub centres, all well connected and prone to less market pressures on housing, airport infrastructure and salary devides?

    Cities like Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Mumbai, Mexico City and Hong Kong hit their manageable maximum years ago, now it’s London’s turn.

  • Charlie the Chump

    Where do we sign up?

  • Kevin

    This should be right up Fraser Nelson’s alley:
    using the Wimbledon/City model, the South provides the political party and applauds while the world’s best foreign politicians walk away with all the silverware.

    Who’s for Mario Monti as PM?

  • andagain

    His aim is to have a Southern Party that would push for home rule for
    London and the South East and oppose fiscal transfers from the South
    East to the rest of the country.

    I wonder how many people who object to housebuilding in the south also object to subsidising unemployment in the north. Just where do they expect people to move to find work?

    • TomTom

      Good job there is no unemployment in London – although ILO figures say 372,000 or 8.7%………still they don’t count in your eyes, bet you don’t even notice them

      • andagain

        There is lower unemployment in the South than the North. Of course there are patches of unemployment in the South, but then, there are patches of higher unemployment in the North.

        • TomTom

          That is the most inane statement I have seen

          • andagain

            I take it that you secretly believe that it is a true statement, or you would not resort to pure abuse.

            Why is it painful to say that unemployment is higher in the North? It is a common observation, after all.

  • swatantra

    Then why the hell didn’t he support Regional Govt? Which I and many others have been banging on about for years. Then he would have got h SE Party; and the Northerners would have got their NE Party.
    The Scots and Irish and Welsh have got theirs already, so they’re laughing.

    • David Lindsay

      Most people in the North East voted against regional government. Here in County Durham, we saw the prospect of all money being spent on Tyneside. I have no idea why they voted No on Tyneside, but that rather illustrates my point.

      • MichtyMe

        Could that explain why capital expenditure on transport infrastructure is, per capita, £2731 in the SE and just £5 in the North East?

        • David Lindsay

          Yes, but I don’t what it has to do with my comment.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      You know, I can’t hear them laughing, except AT their toy parliaments. I can’t see the benefit, other than to provide a whole new stratum of jobs for the boys and girls. If regional governments are the answer, I don’t like the question which is ‘How would the EU cut national parliaments out of power and influence and undermine the Nation?’

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Or perhaps the question is, “How can national parliaments devolve power to their internal regional governments, rather than hand it over to the EU?”

  • MichtyMe

    Please do some simple research, there is no fiscal transfer to Scotland, it is a net contributor to the UK Exchequer and London receives the greatest per capita expenditure after N. Ireland.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Well, it pretty much depends on how you add it up. However, I concede your point that nobody will miss us (the SE) when we leave. Everybody hates us, we don’t care. So we’ll be off then. Perhaps we can manage on our own, perhaps not. David Lindsay does live in the north, yeah? And expat scots will all be rushing home? OK, perhaps we CAN manage.

      • David Lindsay

        I certainly do live in the North.

        It would be pointless for the North of England (with a population considerably larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined) to remain in the United Kingdom if its economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism, Methodism and a High Churchmanship quite different from that in the South, were no longer able to support and to be supported, either by Scotland’s economically leftish social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and small business, and rooted in Catholicism,
        Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism, or by Wales’s economically leftish
        social conservatism serving and served by agriculture, manufacturing and
        small business, and rooted in Catholicism, several varieties of Nonconformity, and the sane High Churchmanship that provides the mood music to the Church in Wales.

        The North would be at least as capable of independence as either Scotland or Wales, and would have every reason to pursue that path if they did. But who would then pay forthe City to be bailed out next time, and the time after that, and the time after that? And what would the smug South East drink, or wash in?

        • MichtyMe

          I suspect that more folk in the North are to found each week in mosques than the combined attendance at churches of all denominations.

          • TomTom

            You will find you are wrong and you simply do not understand the purpose of Mosques which are NOT equivalent to Churches…..they are also banking facilities and computer centres and libraries. You really must start to LEARN before making such basic errors. Have you ever seen a Mosque ? Go to Regents Park – they have a lovely big one.

        • Charlie the Chump

          Neither the North, Scotland, or Wales are capable of anything other than sinking into their dreamy socialist swamp where they will attempt to float on their “entitlements” and “fairness”.
          No recession in the South East, now or in 1930. We just get on with it.

          • David Lindsay

            You were bailed out. By the rest of us. Who do you think would bail you out if we were not there?

          • TomTom

            You are well-named….but do check your facts. Without Northern England London is defenceless, loses its UN Security Council seat, and will rank alongside Belgium in importance. You should do some research on where the technological base of the country is – including the secret defence establishments. In Goodwood BMW workers screw together Rolls-Royce kits from Regensburg in Germany; in Crewe Bentley workers build real cars in a modern plant.

            • Rhoda Klapp

              My security council seat? Gone? Blimey.

              • David Lindsay

                There is talk that it would be gone if Scotland left. The North of England has a populations significantly larger than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

              • TomTom

                You and I don’t care but Preening Peacocks in London care a lot

        • Slicer

          The bailouts were a result of people from outside London, mainly Scottish and northern English people, in a Labour government abusing London’s financial power to enrich banks in Labour heartlands in Edinburgh (RBS & HBOS) and Newcastle (Northern Rock). If London was free of these places then they would have been nothing to do with London.

  • Wilhelm

    London reminds me of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, it’s not really an English city anymore.

    • David Lindsay

      But that has always been London.

  • David Lindsay

    If General Elections really were won and lost in the South East, then there would have been a Conservative Government with a large majority in 2005. In the days when that party used to win Elections outright rather than having to be propped up by someone else, then it did so by winning considerable numbers of seats in Scotland, Wales, the North and the Midlands.

    The equally ignored battle between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the West Country and in Hampshire has also made the difference between a majority government and a hung Parliament at every General Election for many years. The consequences of that fact last time might even cause a bit of attention to be paid to the more westerly half of the South next time. But do not hold your breath.

    Those are all much more conservative places than the South East. Hence their lack of support for the post-Thatcher Conservative Party.

    By losing first many and then most of its Scottish, Welsh, Northern and Midland seats, and by failing to hold or regain ground in the West Country and in Hampshire, the Conservative Party first nearly and then actually lost power in 1992 and 1997 respectively. It seems that by 2015, they will have condemned the electorally key areas to darkness long into the morning for much of the year, by having imposed Central European Time with the connivance of a Coalition partner which has already collapsed north of the Wash and is ripe for collapse west of the Solent.

    That, and even further economic collapse through the abolition of national pay agreements in the public sector. To be joined, in the extremely unlikely event of a Conservative victory, by lower levels of state benefits (what, all of them, even including the old age pension?)
    in the areas where the votes really count. No one in those areas must be in any position to purchase a private sector good or service. Must they?

    In 1992, only the most obsessive political anorak had ever even heard of Tony Blair. And that was still the case on Golden Wednesday, when the Conservative defeat, and thus the Labour victory by default, became a done deal. Furthermore, the Conservatives’ failure to regain power first at all and then on its own has consisted precisely in its failure to regain those Scottish, Welsh, Northern and Midland seats.

    By contrast, the Labour gains in the South East in 1997 were just a bonus, and the loss of most of them in 2005 made no real difference. Indeed, only in 2005 did Blair finally influence a General Election result at all. Specifically, he lost Labour 100 seats that any other Labour Leader would have saved. Thus he moved from being a mere irrelevance to being a positive liability.

    However, the Conservatives, deprived of any significant parliamentary link with the areas that really matter electorally, entirely failed to register this. Instead, they installed as Leader a Blair clone, because he played well in the South East and in polls with the 34 to 38 per cent of determined non-voters dishonestly factored out. How did that turn out for them, then?

  • Vulture

    UKIP appears to have appeal to both north and south. It’s the only party that working-class ex-Tories and middle-class ex-Tories can honestly support. They have both been abandoned by the three Westminster parties who hold them in pretty open contempt.

    • David Lindsay

      UKIP has never won a seat. And the policies advocated by its cheerleaders on forums such as this one, or even the general mood of 1980s nostalgia favoured by them, would be toxic in the North.

      • Ian Walker

        That’ll be how they managed to poll 20% in Rotherham?

        • David Lindsay

          The Tories did better than that there in the Eighties.

          • TomTom

            Living in the Past and ignoring the Future

            • David Lindsay

              Living in the Present.

      • TomTom

        Winning seats is not essential to set an agenda. Jimmy Goldsmith’s Referendum Party won no seats but defined policy

        • David Lindsay

          Oh, yes, I remember that referendum.

    • Archimedes

      Yes – people both North and South know that they no longer have to spoil their ballots, they can just vote UKIP instead: an equally powerful statement, surely set to entice those of great mental faculty to venture forth to a polling station in a desperate bid to waste their time with a satisfying “X”. Oh, life is bliss.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I thought there already was one – or three really. LibLabCon? Yes, I know they are all only really interested in London but they could expand their remit surely? And form one party together – which would be more honest than pretending they have different policies.

    • David Lindsay

      Labour is less like that than it used to be, and I am note sure that the LIb Dems are much like that at all. Not that caring about the West Country, or the North of Scotland, or Mid Wales, is going to save them in those places after the Coalition.

  • MirthaTidville

    As long as he remembers to keep out of Liverpool….

    • David Lindsay

      The North East and Merseyside are both treated as cut off by the Political and Media Classes. Just contrast the number of regular or occasional television programmes set in the Greater Manchester-West Yorkshire-South Yorkshire belt, which is what London-based commissioning editors almost always seem to mean by “the North”. The more picturesque parts of Yorkshire also get quite a look-in, even if Heartbeat, or Last of the Summer Wine, or even Emmerdale was not or is not exactly on the over-realistic side.

      Look at the honours heaped on Manchester United when it wins a European
      title, but not on Liverpool Football Club when it does the same thing. A few years ago, who could have told, from national media coverage, that the shooting of an 11-year-old boy in Liverpool took place, not only in quite a smart part of town, but in fact in a city with a better record on gun-related deaths than Birmingham, Manchester or (wait for it) London? And so one could go on.

      Going all the way back to the 1970s, the Callaghan Government’s proposals for Scottish and Welsh devolution were rightly and vigorously opposed by Labour MPs from the North East and from Merseyside, whom, and whose constituents, nobody had bothered to ask in advance. This negligence was to be repeated by the Blair-Brown Government, not only over devolution, but also over a whole host of other issues. It continues under Cameron.

      A vital part of the solution to this is to have strong MPs from Merseyside, from the
      North East, and from other neglected, patronised areas, drawn from a party which is most strongly committed to the economic, social, cultural and political representation and betterment of those areas. The 2010 Labour intake includes several such, who would have lost out in the selection process to the favoured sons of the Westminster Village and to those favoured sons’ pointless girlfriends. But those considered Opposition to be beneath them. They will soon be beneath a Government including grown-up, serious figures. Bring it on.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Well, the Tories appear to be the Southeast party now, so job done there. Over time, that will likely be formalized, as UKIP’s electoral growth proves out in other regions.

    • David Lindsay

      If UKIP really does become a Northern party, then that will affect it, and in ways that its ageing New Right enthusiasts in and around the London media will not like one little bit.

    • JULES

      Tories get their votes in the SE but they don’t advocate policies to benefit the SE.

      • TomTom

        Course they do…..H2S will be a real boost to transport in the South East. What they need are new nuclear power stations around London so they don’t need to wheel coal-fired elkectricity from Drax and Ferry Bridge

        • Slicer

          London’s electricity comes from the continent.

  • TomTom

    Kelvin MacKenzie apologises toHillsborough families one minute then comes out with this gem. Added to which he is so stupid he registers a domain and gives his home address in Weybridge as the registrant. This man is loco. Anyway he seems more motivated by the idea of extra Council Tax on his £1.5 million house than anything else – but he has a Southern Party – it is called the Conservative Party. The telegraph must have set this idiot up with this puerile article today which makes MacKenzie look politically naive and an Internet dummy

    • David Lindsay

      That “uk” is the most hilarious part even of this story. That, and how anti-Scottish he claims to be when his name is Kelvin Calder MacKenzie.

      • Fergus Pickering

        What does his name have to do with it, Lindsay?

        • David Lindsay

          You have made the point rather well there.

          • telemachus

            The main criticism of Leveson is that he did not have the power to send MacKenzie and his like to the Tower

    • Dimoto

      Forsythe calls it “classic McKenzie polemic”.
      Is that journalese for “the usual McKenzie bullshit” ?

    • Slicer

      The conservative party is not a southern party it is a lost party it doesn’t know what it is any more. There needs to be a new party for London and the Home Counties.

  • Daniel Maris

    The sort of policies Nelly O’Brien supports are a direct cause of the North-South divide. He wants to remove planning constraints so as to make London into a kind of Mexico City-crossed-with-Karachi.

    Labour will soon have plenty more London and SE MPs thanks to the immiseration of the lower middle classes and Tory support for HS2 and Heathrow expansion – plus you might as well throw in the housing crisis induced by mass immigration.

    • David Lindsay

      I used to know a Nelly O’Brien. A meeting between her and the other one would have been quite something to have witnessed…

      Anyway, we probably have to talk about the English regions, even if we would prefer
      to talk about the historic counties from before an unprotesting Thatcher was in the Cabinet. Each of the present or, where they have been abolished in the rush to unitary local government, the previous city, borough and district council areas in each of the nine regions must be twinned with a demographically comparable one (though not defined in terms of comparable affluence) in Scotland, in Wales, in Northern Ireland, and in each of the other English regions.

      Across each of the key indicators – health, education, housing, transport, and so on – both expenditure and outcomes in each English area, responsibility for such matters being devolved elsewhere, would have to equal or exceed those in each of its twins. Or else the relevant Ministers’ salaries would be docked by the percentage in question. By definition that would always include the Prime Minister. In any policy area devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, no legislation must apply in any of the English regions unless supported at Third Reading by the majority of MPs from that region. Since such legislative chaos would rightly be unconscionable, any Bill would in practice require such a consensus before being permitted to proceed at a much earlier stage of its parliamentary progress.

      No one would lose under any of this: there would be no more politicians than at present, and both expenditure and outcomes would have to be maintained in, most
      obviously, Scotland and the South East for the twinning system to work. Is it conceivable that Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish voters would not also insist on full incorporation into it, with their own areas thus also guaranteed expenditure and outcomes equal to or exceeding those in each of those areas’ respective twins? Or else the relevant Holyrood, Cardiff Bay or Stormont Ministers’ salaries would be docked by the percentage in question. By definition that would always include the First Minister, and in Northern Ireland also the Deputy First Minister.

      Ed Miliband, a Yorkshire MP on the East Coast mainline, over to you. You could do with a Northern foil to Maurice Glasman and Jon Cruddas, both of whom, invaluable though they are, are very much men of the South East, and especially of London. It says a very great deal for London that Blue Labour has begun there. But even so. And someone from each of the West Country, the North of Scotland, and Wales north of the Heads of the Valleys Road, would also be no bad thing at all.

    • andagain

      “He wants to remove planning constraints ”

      Building new houses in the South would allow people in the North to move south for work.

      You want to stop them from doing this. Do you also want to compain about the South having to subsidise unemployed northerners?

      • David Lindsay

        The South East is overcrowded as it is. Development in the North is what is needed. Including by the South East, in order to take the heat off it.

        • TomTom

          Why ? London is catering for foreigners who want the Airport and Non-Dom Status – the North cannot offer that easy access by train to Paris and global airline links

          • David Lindsay

            There are airports in the North of England. But you main point is also very important in the debate on taxation. Exodus of “wealth creators”? What exodus? With America now as she is, where would the refugee rich go?

            “Oh, lots of places have lower tax rates.” I do not doubt that taxes are low in the Congo. But these people want a certain lifestyle. Even more so, their wives and children, especially their daughters, do.

            They can get it in precisely two cities on earth, one of which is in the United Kingdom while the other is in the United States, a country to which many of these Russians and Arabs, in particular, will already have been refused entry, or else they would already be in New York rather than in London.

            London may be stuck with them. But they are stuck with London. Therefore, they are stuck with whatever tax regime we choose to impose. They have nowhere else to go.

            • TomTom

              Airports in the North ? apart from Manchester none of them go anywhere

              • acorn

                exactly. put the next runway up there then.

                • TomTom

                  Happy to do so except that The City doesn’t like having to travel up there and it is their country

        • andagain

          The South East is overcrowded as it is. Development in the North is what is needed.

          Central planning strikes again!

          But somehow I wonder whether all those complaining southerners would be happy to see the government halt all infrastructure improvements in the south,and ban factories etc there, in order to force companies to locate in the North. Especially if they started building transpennine motorways,turned the A1 into a motorway etc…

    • 2trueblue

      Not if the Tories remind them who was responsible for the housing shortage? They might also remind the public that Liebore put no infrastructure in place to cater for the massive hike in immigration and population explosion.

      • David Lindsay

        That’s not an argument after five years in power.

        And the root of the housing shortage is the sale of council housing.

        • TomTom

          No it is not. It is family breakdown and people on welfare getting far better housing than they could afford if working so they can repopulate the planet in their leisure time. Abolition of MIRAS punished the working population and Housing Benefit gave increased subsidy to the non-working making the marginal employment uneconomic for so many who wanted house and family

          • 2trueblue

            Thank you for that great reply to DL. You beat me to it. Also the ‘buy to let’ area has massively increased as the costs can be off set against tax thereby offering a pretty safe bet. Mortgages are also easier to get for a buy to let property, and the activity in this area has kept prices above the price affordable for first time buyers.

        • 2trueblue

          I think you are way ahead of yourself here, the present government have not had 5yrs yet! After 13yrs of going for bust the ship is not so easy to turn round. I think TomToms reply is spot on.

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