This article was written for the News & Star.
Political Party Conference season has arrived, and I have been to Manchester for my Party’s annual gathering.
For the politically interested, these gatherings are an opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends, hear the leading lights in the party speak, and most interestingly of all, attend the fringe events – where the real action is!
It is at these fringe events where new and interesting policy ideas are debated, and some ideas which are not always part of the mainstream are put forward and discussed.
I have been quite involved this year with a number of panel events around levelling-up, high streets, and driving growth – especially, of course, in the North.
Interestingly, one important panel event I was a part of was in looking at a policy that could have implications for Carlisle United. The Government is considering bringing forward proposals to regulate some aspects of football clubs – particularly those outside of the Premiership. The key elements we discussed were around governance (to ensure clubs are properly run and owned, and that there is true fan engagement) – and that such clubs receive a fair financial contribution from the Premier League.
The fact is that the disparity between the Premier League and the rest of the English Football League has grown to such an extent that there a danger of undermining the entire football structure. The Premiership is a huge success – a globally known brand – which we as a country should be proud of, but we should also never forget that smaller clubs do have a role to play, and the huge role they have in communities like Carlisle.
In fact, I truly believe that the Premiership would not be the success it is without the competitive lower leagues, full of teams eagerly competing to get a shot at the top league.
This is why I, like many of my other northern colleagues, are behind bringing in this legislation, believing it will strengthen football – particularly smaller clubs in the North of England. I will be following how this issue progresses with interest.
The other main event I was part of was the launch of the Northern Research Group (NRG) of Conservative MPs Manifesto for the North!
For years, Labour took the North for granted – while the Conservatives spent far too long not properly engaging with northern communities. I believe this changed around 2014 when the concept of the Northern Powerhouse was articulated, and the Conservative Party once again saw itself as a party truly for the North of England. From that concept came Levelling Up and other initiatives which have rightly put the North of England at the centre of British politics.
This needs to continue, and making sure it does is one of the jobs that my colleagues and I in the Northern Research Group see for ourselves – so that the North of England remains a central part of the inevitable upcoming party manifestos!