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Time for a new approach from the new PM


Arlen Pettit's column in The Journal

Do you ever have those times when you’re feeling peckish, open the fridge, and just don’t fancy anything you’ve got in? You check the cupboards, the freezer, that place where you hide the Christmas biscuits…still nothing you want.

In the end you just make a cup of tea instead, then go sit on the sofa feeling hard done by.

I have been overwhelmed by a very similar feeling when looking at the list of prospective leaders of the Conservative Party.

On Friday, as we were awaiting word from Theresa May on her plans, the bookies top four favourites to replace her were – in descending order – Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.

Four white men, ages running the complete gamut from 45 to 54, with the clearest difference between them being which Oxford college they went to.

“Urgh,” I sighed to myself, “I don’t want any of this. Why do we always buy the same stuff every time we go to the supermarket?”

Then I made a cup of tea and sat at my desk feeling hard done by.

For a Prime Minister entirely defined by one issue, her resignation speech was disproportionately heavy on domestic policy – mentioning progress on First Time Buyers, the NHS, race and gender inequality, air quality, climate change and rebalancing the economy across the whole of the country.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but that’s almost exactly the list of domestic policies I’d say have been completely ignored over the last three years.

Brexit is without doubt at the top of the list of concerns held by businesses – even those with limited exposure to European markets or workers will be rightly worried what further inertia will mean for the wider economy.

But, those other policy issues are no less pressing as a result.

On Tyneside, air quality is an issue up for public debate.

In the North East, our unemployment and economic inactivity rates are high which makes economic rebalancing crucial.

Across the country, housing remains unaffordable for many and in this region homeownership is the lowest outside of London.

These challenges take years or even decades to address, and too often fall victim to political short termism.

We need the next Prime Minister to change that if we are to avoid more wasted years – but looking at the variety on offer, I fear we look set for more of the same.