After all the huffing and puffing, campaign visits and battle bus tours – and despite a relatively seismic change in the Government’s fortunes – little has changed in the West Midlands. Warwick and Leamington fell to Labour, Walsall North to the Conservatives. Net change: zero.
Business as usual then, what a waste of time that was.
In fact, most regions (apart from Scotland) haven’t seen their political geography change all that much. A seat here, a seat there and we are broadly where we started. The big winner, of course, is Northern Ireland which could be a significant beneficiary of a weak and wobbly government. Even Sinn Fein must admit that a bit more cash for Stormont is no terrible thing.
But if Northern Ireland was the big winner, the West Midlands was the biggest loser. There are two reasons for this, so let me explain:
For political insiders – and now the rest of the country – it has been clear for some time that the controls for the Maybot have been in the hands of Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, joint-former Chiefs of Staff to the PM.
Timothy, born and bred in Erdington, has been one of the Midlands’ most ardent champions. He drove the change in emphasis from the Northern Powerhouse to the Midlands Engine, and put the region on the top of the list for investment and support.
The pair of them have now been replaced by Gavin Barwell, the former Housing Minister. Barwell, despite gaining plaudits from the development community, is another London-centric politician from Croydon. We should expect the Midlands to drop down the priority list as the Government, like a collapsing star, sucks everything back into Whitehall.
Secondly, in amongst the complex campaign rhetoric of this year’s Mayoral Elections, a central plank of Andy Street’s pitch to voters was that he has the ear of the Government.
By all accounts, he is good friends with Theresa May and was personally asked by the PM to run for Mayor (probably underneath the Magic Money Tree after running through a field of wheat in the carefree days of strong and stable government).
Great stuff, many voters thought. We can send Andy off to negotiate for the region, his mates won’t give him a tough time!
Well, unfortunately his mates are having a tough enough time themselves. In a Parliament where just a handful of dissenters can derail policy we can probably expect nothing very important to get done. In fact, when it comes to regional investment will the Government favour the Labour West Midlands or the Conservative Cambridgeshire and Peterborough?
All this, of course, is predicated on the assumption that the Government lasts the year.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. We can at least be thankful that HS2 was passed before this disastrous election as there would be little chance now, and that we do have a Mayor in place that can provide regional leadership when the Government will only be concerned with self-preservation.
At Snapdragon Towers we are already getting ready for the next election. Get in touch if you would like our predictions, this time we’re going to use a magic eight ball…much more reliable. Cannot predict now…damn.