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Jonathan Walker’s column telling it how it is


If you’re anything like me then I’m sure you’ve been glued to the various election debates hitting the airwaves over the last couple of weeks.

No? Well if I’m being honest I’m not sure you’ve missed much.

Scrolling through my Twitter feed during the shows, it was vaguely depressing to see tweet after tweet from people of all political colours declaring their leader to be the victor, despite what they may have seen over the previous hour.

I wish I could do the same when looking at the classified football results.

Of course, I readily accept that Twitter is not typically the place to go looking for nuanced, balanced and rational political debate.

As the election began, we wrote to the major party leaders; asking them not to stereotype the North East and to set out a real vision for growth in regions such as ours.

Looking through the manifestos, it’s clear to see the parties making a ‘retail’ pitch to voters on issues such as the NHS, crime and education.

This is understandable; I’m not sure many elections have been won on the basis of a credible methodology for allocating regional investment.

Yet it feels like the country is in need of a sensible, mature debate about how we close the economic gap between regions.

I’m not saying things like the NHS aren’t important. I know from personal and family experience the issues and challenges facing health workers on a daily basis.

But rather than having a competition to see who’s got the biggest health budget, why don’t we discuss the roles business and employment growth and rising prosperity can play in helping to keep people healthy and therefore lessen the burden on the system?

Or, rather than just committing to big-name infrastructure schemes (which are of course welcome), why not overhaul a funding system that has consistently allocated greater levels of spending per head to areas such as London and the South East?

The truth is that these are not easy things to sell on the doorstep, nor are they easily converted into soundbites or ‘clippable’ moments from debates that can be shared on social media.

But when we consistently hear that the Brexit referendum result was, in part at least, a call from the ‘left behind’ areas of the country to get the attention of the political establishment, then surely this debate is one that needs to happen.