It’s easy to list what’s wrong, it’s harder to come up with a plan

April 21, 2024

It’s easy to list everything that’s wrong with the world.

It’s harder to come up with a plan to change it.

The North East’s had more than its fair share of problems over the years.  Thatcherism destroyed 248,000 jobs in the region. My Dad’s included. Steelworks, wagon works, and of course, the mines.  GDP per capita plummeted from 93% of the national average in 1981 to 73% by 2017. No other English region suffered this decline.

Even today our productivity is too low, and our healthy life expectancy is the worst in England. Widespread deprivation goes hand-in-hand with the lowest levels of asset ownership.

But the idea that we’ve always been poor is a myth.

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the North East had a higher GDP per person than the South East, South West, West Midlands, and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The home of the locomotive, the birthplace of the railways, the supplier of ships to the world. The place where renewable energy, electric light and turbine power were invented.

We weren’t left behind then. We were at the forefront of the industrial revolution.

Now, as we grapple with the climate emergency, the world is going to build wind turbines and electric vehicles. And I want them built here in the North East.

As North of Tyne Mayor I’ve invested £40 million in our green industries, creating jobs and prosperity. Our offshore wind sector is thriving and the Energy Central Learning Hub in Blyth is creating the career pathways for tomorrow’s engineers.

Now imagine what we can do with twice the people and twice the budget.

Our people are still strong, proud and friendly. Shared adversity has led to shared resilience. “We are still here” despite the setbacks.

And we have real advantages that could pave the way for a brighter future.

Our unique combination of city, coast and countryside offers a range of great places to live, work and bring up families.

Cities that bring together diverse and vibrant communities.

A coast that provides great days at the beach but also the gateway to the offshore renewable energy industry.

A countryside that feeds our bellies and our imagination. Food and forests. Farming and fitness.

We can be the first region to enact a Green New Deal. Using offshore wind to power the transition to cheap energy and clean air.  Building warmer homes and retrofitting existing housing stock.

Funding a richer cultural life for everyone to enjoy.  Places and activities where our young people can find their voice and tell their stories.  Where they learn to be proud citizens.

We can be the first region to have a Total Transport Network that integrates buses, trains, Metro, bikes and car clubs. With capped fares and free travel for under-19s and students.

We can be the first region to provide a good job for everyone who wants one and the careers pathway to get people the skills needed. The single most transformational action a Mayor could take. Parents will no longer have to raise their kids in poverty. Crime will fall. Health inequalities will close.

We can do all of this and more. But only if we vote for it.

If humanity could put a man on the Moon 55 years ago then we surely have the means to build a better North East today.

I’m not running for North East Mayor because it’s easy. I’m doing it because it’s hard.