Brandy's Blog - A Northern View of Westminster

How does the North East get the ear of Government?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

How does the North East get the ear of Government?

There are twenty nine MPs in the North East. And how many cabinet members? None.

What about shadow cabinet members? There are 26 Labour MPs, there must be a high-flier? Well we've got a few rising stars, but not a single one is part of Ed Miliband's top team.

The region used to have a regional minister under Gordon Brown's government, who'd 'champion' the North East. That was Nick Brown, the Newcastle MP. But the coalition scrapped that post. Go even further back, and you might remember the days when the North East even laid claim to the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary and many more (Tony Blair, Alan Milburn, Peter Mandelson, David Miliband...)

So how does the North East bend the ear of government these days? Well, it's tricky. There's the option of a question in the house - to the Prime Minister, or another member of government. As an MP you can write letters, request meetings, maybe even organise a demo. But these are all confrontational approaches - none of them really get the government 'on side'.

But in a first today, a dozen or so Labour MPs managed to persuade the Cities Minister Greg Clark to meet with them every 6-8 weeks to listen to concerns about the North East. The idea is that he will then take their issues to the heart of government. The 'delegation' will be open to all North East MPs, including the two Tories and two Lib Dems. But even so, the question is whether twenty six Labour MPs versus one Tory minister is really going to be any less confrontation than the methods of lobbying already on offer.