Friday, October 28, 2011

Ken Curran is "Seeking A Way Forward" (Part 1).

The map on the left is Danny Dorling's interpretation of the North-South divide. For an explanation of his reasoning see here .

by Ken Curran, Chair of the Sheffield Branch of the Co-op Party and member of the Sheffield District Labour Party.

Labour faces enormous challenges in the future. The current world financial crisis is paralysing most progressive political thought, not just in Britain but across the world. Here in Britain, apart from cuts being imposed by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition, we have a long standing problem which casts dark shadows across the land. The North-South divide which has developed over the years since the Second World War appears more pronounced than ever. What I am proposing is both progressive and visionary. For the idea to have any hope of success will require a future Labour Government not just to share the vision, but to take over its ownership in order to drive the project forward.

I take the view that only radical and dynamic proposals will overcome the current inertia in the British Economy. There is really no shortage of money available for investment, but finding somewhere secure to invest is the problem. My proposal would not create instant wealth. However, it would provide private and public investors with a long term security for their investments, which in time would grow with value.

Coming to the proposals themselves. If they were approved in principle by a future Labour Government and the projects used to stimulate debate, I feel such ideas would have the effect of creating a catalyst.

The political conference season of 2011 has come and gone, I regret to say there were no new exciting ideas. Not wanting to be disparaging about Ed Miliband's speech to Conference, it said more about the current state of the political thought on the democratic left than anything else. He reminded me of a very well intentioned person, groping around in the dark not wanting to tread on anyone's toes! Labour needs big ideas to set our pulses racing creating that sense of purpose that all good people will want to be part of. A NEW VISION FOR BRITAIN!

We have to break the influence of the Financial Institutions who have greatly contributed towards creating the present financial crisis and to deepening of the North-South divide.

The first step is to propose the building of an East-West tunnel under the Pennines (Peak District) perhaps from the east of Sheffield on to the lowland area of Greater Manchester, initially to carry high speed freight from the North West to a new Humber Port Terminal aimed to enabling goods from the towns of Preston, Burnley, Bury, Rochdale, Salford, Liverpool and Manchester to be transported to Moscow in and around 36 to 40 hours. I envisage a line across the North German plain into Eastern Europe and beyond, with Rail Terminals at strategic points to enable links to potential markets. I believe that the time saved in the transportation of goods from Northern and North Midland manufactures would be a huge leap forward in cutting the times of transportation.

At present much of our trade is with Europe, however over time I envisage extending the proposed high speed rail lines beyond the Urals in order to reach the countries of Kazakhstan and Mongolia, opening up a fast overland rail route into China and India. These routes would knock weeks off the current trade routes to the Far East by sea. That is, of course, for the future. Once the Tunnel is operational it would also transform the present travel times for goods in Europe generally.

The envisaged new Port on the River Humber with new rail and ferry terminals would increase the current capacity of trade. It would act as a stimulus for hard pressed areas like North Lincolnshire, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Immingham, Goole and Hull. The benefits would be shared by Derbyshire, Nottingham, West and South Yorkshire and beyond. In Yorkshire and the North Midlands the expertise to drive a deep tunnel under the Peak District already exists. It would in no way threaten the National Park . I am suggesting a new tunnel because of the need for space on the west of the Pennines to locate a large rail terminal. Although my knowledge of the west of the Pennines leads me to conclude that the current rail routes and tunnels are unsuitable for fast high speed travel.

These are only ideas at present, which I suggest are worthy of consideration. I am aware of no other ideas in the thought locker of the democratic left that would provide British businesses with the opportunities these proposals provide. As previously stated, there is really no shortage of money, only a reluctance to invest! Years ago Denis Healy accused the Tories of building a Candy Floss Economy. This they succeeded with under Mrs Thatcher. The need to restructure the economy is imperative. Giving support to this kind of initiative would boost a much needed confidence. Europe is floundering. Its current leaders lack vision. We could give that much needed leadership. The democratic left can and must provide answers to the problems of our age. Every crisis brings forth opportunities.

I have, however, so far only revealed half of my proposed package. Part two will appear on "Dronfield Blather" shortly.

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