In the days when George Osborne was Chancellor, he had such a fondness for the phrase “northern powerhouse” that it was a staple of Budget bingo. To cynics, it seemed a convenient way to woo the North, even as the Government’s focus increased in the South.
So when the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, sacked him in July, there was much speculation the idea would disappear with him.
But it seems Osborne, now a backbench MP, is genuinely wedded to the idea. He is even launching a think tank to promote it – the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
Osborne will chair the thinktank, which will partner with Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, and include cross-party and civic leaders.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that May had a “bit of a wobble” over the Northern Powerhouse. Speaking at the launch, he praised her decision to continue it but added that the North needed to own it.
Speaking at the launch, and flanked by local Labour politicians as well as Conservatives, Osborne declared: “The north-south divide has been a problem in our country for decades. Politicians from all sides have tried with good faith to address it.”
He added: “The fact is that the economy of the north still lags behind the economy of the south. There is nothing that says that is inevitable.”
The northern powerhouse was about civic leadership, and collaboration in local politics, he said, but it was still early days: “Trying to turn around a hundred years of relative economic decline is not going to happen overnight.”
He ended his speech declaring: “The northern powerhouse is here to stay.”
After his closest ally, the former Prime Minister David Cameron, resigned, Osborne signalled his determination to stay, tweeting: “I will miss him alongside me on the green benches over the coming years.”
On Friday, he tweeted: “Chairing the new body, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, will now be a major focus of my political energies.”