This article was written for the News & Star.
One interesting aspect of our political system is that it encourages our major parties to be quite broad in their ideology.
Because first-past-the post elections make coalition Governments so rare, the political parties themselves are coalitions of ideals and positions. Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party have members within them who have some quite different ideas about the world!
This is why, inside the parties themselves, there have been a number of groups or caucuses that have formed. They can often be around ideological issues, but may have other things in common.
One such caucus is the Northern Research Group, which I was elected the Chair of last year. The NRG group is a collection of Conservative MPs who represent constituencies in the north of England who have got together to work together for the north as a whole.
The idea of the group is that there is such thing as a northern English social, economic, and political identity. And within this concept there are particular issues (and potentials) which are important to the north above and beyond the rest of the country.
Our focus as a group, then, is to identify these issues, come up with ideas to help and boost the north, and to make sure the Government listens to them. One of the most important ways we can do this is through our Northern Research Group Conference 2023, which is being held next week on Friday the 9th June at Doncaster Racecourse.
The conference will be an opportunity to review what has been done, identify what needs to be done, as well as to look toward future ideas and try to influence upcoming Government policy – through panel discussions and other means.
Of course, to do this effectively there has to be a sense of reality in regards to where we are. Over the past few decades the north of England has not kept up with the south in terms of economic development. There are various reasons for this, but it is my genuine belief that there are also solutions to this.
Concepts like the Northern Powerhouse understood that there is a huge amount of potential to be unlocked. The idea that increasing connectivity between the big cities of the north would generate a northern economy greater than the sum of its parts is still something that needs to be expanded upon.
Levelling Up had noble intentions – and investment in Carlisle such as the southern ring road, the university, and the train station are going to have real positive economic effects, not just in our city but across the region. But by divorcing the Levelling Up concept from the geographical disparity between the north and south it has been diluted somewhat. It certainly needs to be re-energised.
And so, these are the topics that are going to be tackled at the NRG conference in Doncaster. Yes, the conference is about assisting Conservative MPs in their policy work – but it is an event open to anyone, and there will be a range of panellists and speakers from quite different political backgrounds. Anyone who is interested can find information here: https://nrgconference.uk/nrg-2023
Everybody, from all parts of the county and all types of political persuasions, should have an interest in this. Because a stronger north means a stronger Britain.