Gordon's Popularity Dive? The English are looking to their wallets.
You don’ t understand us, do you, Gordon? | Alice Miles - Times Online
Och, they’re all dreadful, said the sharp Scottish lady measuring up my curtains, when I explained that I had been away at the party conferences, “I’m that fed up with them. You don’t have to listen to it all, do you?”
Normally one can get away with muttering something smilingly non-committal at this point, but not with Fiona. She put down her measuring tape and challenged me: “So come on, does it mean any more to you than it does to the rest of us? Do you trust them? Because I can’t see any good in it.”
“Mind you,” she was musing, “it was different when I was in Scotland. You could see the benefit there. Everyone can see what they’re getting. Down here, they just pay and pay and get nothing for it.”
Fiona’s not an idiot. There you have, from the mouth of someone who has lived north and south, a near-perfect expression of the reason why Mr Brown suddenly looked like losing a general election last week. He doesn’t understand Southern England, he doesn’t understand that he doesn’t understand it, and he doesn’t see any need to respond to its concerns. Put baldly, the South is paying a lot of money and it isn’t getting a measurable return. It wants to know what the plan is.
Just handing out public money helps the North and Scotland, because their economies are carried by public money. Each year, the Centre for Economic and Business Research (cebr) calculates public spending as a share of GDP for every region of the UK. The cebr adds up government spending figures, benefits and pensions and apportions EU transactions, defence and debt spending on top.
The results are quite shocking. In Northern Ireland, Wales, the North East, Scotland and the North West, public spending as a share of regional GDP is not only far higher than the national average of 44.1 per cent, it is higher than in any EU or OECD country – at, respectively, 70.5, 64.3, 63.0, 55.6 and 54.0 per cent. Well over half the economy in those areas is funded by the taxpayer. In London and the South East, by contrast, public spending accounts for under a third of GDP, in the East of England it is 38.3 per cent and in the South West, 42 per cent. According to cebr, the gap is widening, not shrinking.
Now look at GB-AD and their Cabinet colleagues. They overwhelmingly represent Scotland and the North. Mr Brown has just a single full Cabinet minister with a parliamentary seat in the south, and he is the most junior, John Denham (who? Exactly). Apart from the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, in the Midlands, all the rest are in the north of England, Wales or Scotland. Not one from the East of England, the South East or the South West.
Tony Blair’s Cabinets had a northern bias too, but it didn’t matter so much because Mr Blair himself was so obviously Middle England at heart. And he always had a sprinkling of Southern and Middle England softies – Tessa Jowell, Harriet Harman, Chris Smith, Pat Hewitt – to leaven the mix.
So when a Scottish Chancellor of the Exchequer stands up next to a Scottish Prime Minister, the English naturally look to their wallets.