October 31, 2016

How to reclaim metropolitan Britain

How to reclaim metropolitan Britain

The London Borough of Wandsworth is a shining example of how radical modern Toryism works in practice in an inner-city area, says Peter Bingle.

It is understood that Nick Timothy – often referred to as the ‘PM’s brain’ – is a great fan of Joseph Chamberlain, the maverick politician who transformed Birmingham. Chamberlain once famously said ‘never think beyond the next fortnight’ so perhaps he was the first Blairite!

Nonetheless, If the ghost of Joseph Chamberlain is now inhabiting Number 10 this is a welcome development as the Tories need to reclaim metropolitan Britain. Under Cameron and Osborne, the Tory party retreated from cities and towns up and down the land including London where the party had once been strong and often politically dominant. There was a time in my youth when the Tories controlled Birmingham and had a clear majority of MPs in Greater London!

There is no need, however, for the PM, her advisers and ministers to travel up to Birmingham. They simply need to get on a charabanc and travel across the Thames to the London Borough of Wandsworth to understand how radical modern Toryism works in practice in an inner-city area. Over the last thirty-eight years the transformation has been truly astonishing.

Wandsworth was once described as ‘the jewel in Mrs Thatcher’s crown’ and the reason was very simple. Wandsworth Tories were Thatcherite before Mrs Thatcher herself. Through a radical policy agenda including the outsourcing of services, cutting spending, promoting home ownership and tackling the dreadful legacy of the Inner London Education Authority, Wandsworth became the Tory flagship council. A Labour controlled council from 1971 to 1978 it has been steadfastly Tory ever since although it was a close-run thing in 1986 when control was retained in a difficult year nationally by just one seat!

Wandsworth’s mantra was very simple: Lowest Tax. Best Services. Those four simple words proved politically very powerful. Wandsworth Tories conclusively demonstrated that residents – rich and poor – could enjoy some of the best delivered council services in the country at a price that was demonstrably value for money.

Nine Elms symbolises what is special about Wandsworth. Not only will it deliver 15,000 new homes with at least a quarter of them affordable, it will become one of the top destination areas in London. Apple’s decision to locate its UK headquarters in Battersea Power Station is merely the latest vindication of the policy agenda being pursued by Ravi Govindia and his colleagues.

So, Mrs May and her team should be taken on a tour of the borough. The Wandsworth Story shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to the PM. For eight years from 1986-1994, the PM was a local councillor in neighbouring Merton. Even in her days as a councillor she will have known there was something special about Wandsworth.

Of course, Wandsworth isn’t the only London borough doing amazing things. It has, however, been doing it for longer than anybody else which proves that it is possible to be both radical as well as politically popular. Peter John in Labour-controlled Southwark is proving the same thing. There are too many politicians at Westminster who are terrified of doing anything radical or different for fear of scaring voters. They should have much more faith in ordinary voters.

On a related point, some of the best local authorities in the country are Labour controlled. Ministers and shadow ministers have much to learn from what is being done in the likes of Haringey and Southwark. Local government is often much better than central government at dealing with difficult issues and transforming people’s lives within constrained budgets. Some humility from Ministers and their shadows would be appreciated. The result would be better governance.

We are living through transformed times. Areas of the country are changing literally daily. Again, Wandsworth is a good example of this. The population has changed beyond recognition since May 1978 and inevitably their expectation of what they need or indeed want from their local council has changed. Tried and trusted slogans need to be refined and honed. What has not changed, however, is the need to deliver high quality services at a reasonable price and to offer residents genuine high quality housing options.

The PM is very different to her predecessor. She clearly has a much better understanding of what it is like to be an ordinary hardworking family or a single hard pressed young professional. In her own words, those of us who are ‘just managing’. In the months and years ahead she can use that understanding and empathy to deliver revolution and transformation across the country. Labour has no obvious response…

The real problem is that central government is often cumbersome and inefficient. Tories should never really trust the concept of the big centralised state. ‘Parcellised sovereignty’ to quote Perry Anderson is surely the much better approach. Local government is increasingly leading the way in service delivery and economic transformation and as such should be the primary means of transforming Britain. There needs to be a genuine rapprochement between central and local government. Council leaders and their colleagues need to be shown more respect by ministers. If they are the effect will be transformational.

I hope Mrs May and her senior colleagues will be on that charabanc to Wandsworth in the very near future…

3.83 avg. rating (77% score) - 12 votes
Peter Bingle
Peter is the Founder of Terrapin Communications. With a career in politics and communications that has spanned almost four decades, he is one of the country's leading public affairs practitioners. His career has seen him advise many top companies, including McDonald’s, HSBC, L’Oreal, Permira, Motorola, Camelot, Rolls Royce & Kellogg's.
  • Shadow Warrior

    Hammond is continuity Brown. He is a hand-wringing lefty looking for clever wheezes to raise more tax in ways that people don’t immediately notice.

  • captainslugwash

    I predict the Budget will attempt to show the Left how caring the Tories are, and it will be funded by screwing over the working man.
    If Corp Tax comes down, I bet Divi tax will be going up.
    I would love to be wrong.

  • skynine

    We really need to look at tax credits, in particular in work tax credits that encourage people to work part time to preserve the benefits. 45% of women work part time and I would hazard a guess that tax credits are the main cause. This leads to low pay, low skill work in supermarkets and the retail sector including coffee shops. The government needs to get back to the employer paying people to do a job for economic reasons rather than to get onto the tax credit ladder. Like all government benefits it distorts the market and diverts government expenditure into non productive areas.
    The refrain that the government has cut expenditure is not true, it increases every year as more and more goes into welfare.

  • MrVeryAngry

    fat chance

  • MrSauce

    So, when wouldn’t we want a ‘budget for growth’?

  • Rob

    I note that the UK Government has just slapped on a 25% tax charge for anyone moving abroad and wishing to move out their private pension from the UK.

  • SonofBoudica

    The Remoaners will do their utmost to sabotage the Government’s negotiating position. They do not want a successful outcome; they want a failure. They want to be able to scream “Told you so!” from the rooftops.

  • EnglandLaments

    Thank goodness for Andrew Neil, the one media hack who scares the pants off the established politicians. He was spot on with Heidi Allen!

  • joshuafalken

    I had a very long, hard, studied and considered look at the hope, care and aspirations of all Europeans, before I voted to get the UK out of the toxic grasp of Brussels.

    The European Union and it’s charge of “ever closer union” has borrowed and spent its way to oblivion, whilst enslaving the working and middle classes in debt.

    The central control mantra of the unaccountable Brussels ruling elite, delivered through a mixture of socialism, globalism and corporatism is entirely responsible for the populist revolt by the millions of “Just About Managings” across Europe.

    We must remember the ultimate goal of socialists, globalists and corporatists is control, not prosperity. see https://mises.org/blog/goal-socialists-socialism-—-not-prosperity.

    Social equality and economic growth always fail under central control and fighting against the Brussels doctrine on behalf of all Europeans is why I voted for Brexit.

    Britain has a long history of helping Europeans depose tyrants and Brussels is just the latest incarnation.

    Britain is the most racially advanced and accepting society on the planet. We welcome those in need and those that can help us with open arms and a smile; that will not change.

    We are also one of the most innovative, talented and open societies in the world, which why everyone wants to live here. However, we cannot fit everyone in, so we have to have clear, balanced and fair immigration policy which is where the arguments start between the monetarists and humanists will never be reconciled.

    I thought long and hard before coming to the conclusion that leaving the EU was in the best interest of all Europeans, as Brussels is toxic and cannot be reformed from within.

    Also, I find it insulting that people who voted Remain have insufficient faith in British ingenuity, compassion and skill to get a good deal for us and see the Europe that we love get a better deal from Brussels and the reform that European people deserve. https://mishtalk.com/2017/03/29/bad-brexit-deal-better-than-no-deal-mathematical-idiocy-odds-of-no-deal/ and https://www.worldheadlines.info/2017/03/after-brexit-9-reasons-to-be-bullish-on-great-britain/

    The politics of left verses right are dead because neither have delivered the promised economic growth and social mobility for anyone, but themselves. The populists are not selfish per-se, they just want to take back control of their own destiny that left/right politicians have freely given away and/or exploited for their own ends. In my constituency, the local residents group are taking over the councils as politicians ignore voters, so Westminster should beware of the well-organised, local resident independents at the next election. This is a peoples revolution which should be shouted from the rooftops, but liberals remained deafened by the socialist, globalist and corporatist “vested interests” that have spectacularly failed us and are obediently crying foul and fake.

    There will be an initial unpalatable inflationary cost to fighting globalism and rolling back central control that few appear to have factored in, but dismantling failed left/right vested interests should eventually free libertarian socially-conservative capitalism from the shackles of TBTF corporatism to feed economic growth and social mobility.

  • agdpa

    The EU usually makes the wrong decision – on immigration, on freedom of movement, on the euro, on the Ukraine, etc. etc. Little hope it will get Brexit right.

  • brownowl

    Eh? Reference please!

  • Neil2

    Sod caring. Screw the spongers and breeders. Kill HS2. Stop all “green” subsidies. Slash “foreign aid” and walk away from the EUSSR with immediate effect.

  • Rob
  • John C

    What a confused article. It conflates surveillance by the security services with poor defences against fraud.

  • John C

    Err, it’s the UK that’s leaving the EU, not vice versa.

  • John C

    Me, now. ‘Growth’ is a manic obsession.

  • La Face Nord

    Mr Redwood – are you aware of the Biased BBC website? It’s been exposing their agenda for a long time, but I imagine you’ve been well aware of the BBC’s agenda for quite some time…

  • Contact Rvtech

    The post is great

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