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Rachel Anderson on balancing self-interest and co-operation


Journal column on what the North needs

The Convention of the North was held the other week. It was an event designed to pull us all together and foster co-operation rather than competition amongst areas in the “North” for overall gain.

While people were there in the spirit intended, the tensions weren’t far under the surface with many keen to get as much for their area as possible. If you’ve seen the film “The Warriors” where gangs in New York are called to a meeting by a charismatic leader to talk about co-operation but then there’s fighting, large gangs v small, and a fraught journey through hostile territory, you’ll get the picture. Except this was in Rotherham, and we had to listen to the Prime Minister.

The Convention was designed to look at what we can do to really get the North moving and how we should work together on things such as trade and export, green growth, skills and culture. The overriding feeling was that if we can act as a single entity in some things, the North can be an economic heavyweight. I can also be a driver of growth rather than waiting for something, anything to happen following decisions made elsewhere. The aims are laudable, but there is a question mark over how much each Mayor and region really values collaboration over local interest.

Much was also made of the role in the national media, especially the tired old image of the North they tend to present. Speaker after speaker representing the communities of the North railed that the coverage we get nationally often portraying grime and misery is unfair and frankly just not good enough. The only problem was, the journalists this was aimed at weren’t in the room at the time, the piled in with the Prime Minister, listened to his speech and then left again so didn’t hear a word the North said.

While it probably didn’t achieve that much on the day other than headlines about the PM, the Convention of the North was a start. It did demonstrate we are all on the same page in terms of wanting to be big enough to make our own decisions. There is parochialism, but there is some hope for co-operation and the North East and Tees Valley gangs clearly have a huge role to play.

I’m typing this on the train home passing through York. No sign of any baseball bats but I might just switch on Minster FM to make sure nothin’s goin dowwwn.