“The twos” sings Leon Brittan’s unforgiving Spitting Image puppet, “reminds me that the country is two unequal halves, the south, and the other bit with the good football teams”. Were such gross caricature true, Lancashire possesses the short straw, devoid of premier league clubs, the likes of Manchester and Liverpool narrowly falling outside of county boundaries.
It's not all grim up north! Seats such as Morecambe & Lunesdale (above) show the county of Lancashire offers strong opportunities for 2020
Outside of the ‘premier league’ is a sentiment many Lancastrian’s attribute to Westminster. The much lauded ‘Northern Powerhouse’ reduces journey duration between Liverpool and Hull, connecting the economic, cultural and population centres of the North. However, with Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Hull constituting the vertebra of the Northern spine; Lancashire is left a peripheral afterthought.
With a population exceeding one million, the ageing M6, M55 and M65 alongside sparse, decrepit rolling stock, ill-serves the rural day-tripper, let alone the SME hoping to integrate into a fit-for-purpose 21st century transport network.
Lancashire, far from vague talk of handouts versus hands-up, requires supply side investment. On this front, much has been accomplished.
Under Conservative representation, South Ribble has, over eight years, produced 10,677 new jobs – matching Liverpool and Manchester combined. In Morecambe and Lunesdale, the port and nuclear power station of Heysham will be connected to the UK’s longest motorway via a £123million M6 link, a great boon to locals and Britain at large. Thanks to a stunning promenade regeneration scheme in Blackpool South, (greenlit by Tories – credit poached by labour) supporting local businesses and sticking to our long term economic plan, Blackpool today stands tenth happiest place to live within the UK.
Lancashire’s Tory Caucus has reduced unemployment, often below the national average, in a county often portrayed as deprived. However, from the progressive milieu permeating from Lancaster and Preston’s universities, to the structurally unemployed and low income immigrant communities of south-east Lancashire, Conservatives are met with an instinctively hostile electorate.
Our long term economic plan won votes by presenting a Conservative party of sound fiscal and monetary policy, low inflation and falling unemployment.
Thus, when the well runs dry, we must produce a creditable solution to Lancashire’s structural unemployment and an equilibrium, in which Liberal Democrat votes can sit comfortably in the pews of David Cameron’s ‘wide-church’.
Dr David Starkey warns against a politics that “foolishly concentrates on the middle, deeply unfertile ground to the Tories.”
Lancashire’s electoral map vindicates this stance, for it isn’t the diverse cityscape of Preston, nor the ‘Cool Britannia’ embodied in the garishly brutalist new-city of Skelmersdale that the flags fly blue – it’s the Victorian terraces of Nelson and the seaside resort of Lytham; the sort of place Matthew Parris would have you ‘turn your back on’.
A serious approach to Lancashire’s challenges necessitates fighting structural unemployment, the source of resentment from industrial labourers, ex-fishermen and the broadly disenfranchised, ameliorating a lingering ‘Thatcher closed the mines’ sentiment prevalent to this day.
Ten years prior, Blackpool gave the Conservative party David Cameron: a leader to face the challenges of 2005 – Lancashire can be more than another challenge; it can be a lodestar for a Conservatism fit for the political environment of 2015.
Adam is Chairman of Lancaster Conservative Future
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