Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lord Snooty's Safari

Given the precious one’s penchant for exhuming the dead and setting up fatuous policy groups, this was sort of inevitable. Not that Heseltine’s unqualified though:
Lord Heseltine, who led the regeneration of Liverpool after the 1981 Toxteth riots...
It’s lucky we have the BBC to tell us these things. Without them, how would we know Liverpool has been regenerated ? Can you imagine what Wayne Rooney would be like if it hadn’t been ?

For what it’s worth, Heseltine’s chosen method of regenerating Liverpool was the International Garden Festival. Really. This settled once and for all the difficult question of whether millions of pounds of public money could succeed in transforming derelict land into Japanese pavilions and the like. Call me a cynic, but I’m thinking that whatever's happened or hasn’t happened on Merseyside since then, bonsai trees are unlikely to have played a significant role in it.

Mind you, paying people to grow really small trees in abandoned dockland seems sane compared to his latest pronouncements. Try this:
[Heseltine] said deprived areas needed to be made competitive.

The former environment secretary said: "Instead of areas which a large number of people try to get out of because the schools aren't good enough, because the housing isn't good enough, because the dereliction is off putting, you have to make them competitive with those leafy suburbs to which people go."
Now isn’t this a revealing insight into what Blue Labour really believe ? Sure, there’s the Thatcherite rhetoric about ‘competitiveness’, but what does it actually mean ? Let's, for the sake of argument, accept that the inner cities are awful because of a lack of high-quality horticulture. Either they have nice gardens or they don’t. In what sense are they competing with anyone ? The logic – and I use that term loosely – of Heseltine’s position is that you could presumably achieve the same effect by either building more gardens in the cities or by soaking the suburbs in Agent Orange. Or, to put it another way, forget all the pseudomarket jargon, this is just the same old obsession with supposed ‘equality’ that has hobbled social policy for years.

Still, it marks a new low even for these people to be adopting the childish Liberal habit of sneering at ‘leafy suburbs’. Really, what do they propose ? Maybe they could hire a few dumper trucks and set up a bussing programme to help counteract the ‘leaf gap’ ? Seriously, what’s objectionable is not only the fact the Tories have bought into the stupid rhectoric, but also the underlying ideas. Take schools - to listen to the L3 you could almost imagine literacy rates in schools in the inner cities were so bad because they pesky suburbanites were using up all the education so they had nothing left over to teach with.

But there’s something more profoundly wrong about Blue Labour’s approach. Consider the sheer weirdness of the whole thing, banner headlines about the fact that an English guy has gone from one part of England to another. There’s something deeply wrong when Cameron seems to think he’s David Livingstone just because he’s gone north of Watford. Does Cameron really expect to be taken seriously ‘oop North’ when he makes it so blindingly obvious that he consider Northerners as ‘the Other’.

Where are the Northern Conservatives ? Hell, I’ll even give Cameron a name: Esther McVey. Successful GMTV presenter, now a Conservative candidate in an eminently winnable seat on Merseyside. But no – Cameron travels up with his Metropolitan acolytes, talks to a bunch of Metropolitan journalists, then goes back to London.

Now, some may point out that the lovely Esther is not standing in an inner city hellhole. Well, yes, that would be the point. The North isn’t all gun battles and derelict buildings. Even Merseyside isn’t all that. In so far as Esther McVey is standing in a constituency that is abnormal in no way other than geographically, this attractive, articulate candidate would be exactly the type of person the Conservatives should be pushing. But no, Cameron’s posturing just confirms that to his breed of Conservatives, the North is merely a backdrop for some suitably grim photo ops, with Northerners as victims or savages or anything but fellow citizens.

The North needs neither grand projects nor Metropolitan yuppie scum tourists taking out onions for it. What the North needs to prosper is what everywhere needs: functional law-enforcement, real property rights, low taxes, capital punishment for lawyers…You know, it occurs to me that for all that the government has done for the North over these past thirty years, what they’ve done to the North is far worse. Human rights, ecolunacy, discrimination legislation, health & safety and all the other obsessions of the idle rich taxgulpers down in our nation’s capital have done more damage to the North than any number of white elephant projects can make up for. Maybe we shouldn’t object to Cameron treating the North like the Cursed Earth, just as long as he’ll follow through on the logic of his own position. Let’s cut a deal, Cameron: when your PM, you’ll be free to stay down there, if only you’ll keep your stupid legislation there too.

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