It has come as no surprise that Conservatives have been falling over themselves to denounce a report calling for a major population shift from the North of England to London and the South.
Think-tank Policy Exchange is suggesting residents in deprived towns should be encouraged to follow Dick Whittington’s example and head to the capital to seek their fortune.
Their reasoning is that, with the best will in the world, it will never be possible to end poverty in struggling towns and cities, so the most sensible approach is for the poor to move to where the money is.
This has provoked a furious reaction from some Labour MPs. It also flies in the face of the Conservative Party’s stated aim of expanding their support beyond their heartlands in the South-east and parts of the West Midlands to win seats in the North and Scotland.
There is a huge wealth gap between the Midlands and the South-east, but our region is still far more successful than many other parts of England.
For this reason, the report focuses mostly on the North, and in particular on coastal cities and towns which thrived when maritime trade fuelled the nation’s economy - an era which has long-since passed.
But the report’s authors have made it clear that they do include parts of the West Midlands in their analysis.
In particular, while Birmingham is a viable city due to its size and economic potential, it is not large and wealthy enough to raise living standards in nearby towns and smaller cities.
This is the core of the Policy Exchange report’s argument - that the South-east is wealthy because of London, which generates wealth not only for itself but for the entire surrounding region. Other parts of England are doomed to failure because they have no London. David Cameron and his team are wily enough to realise that this will go down like a lead balloon in most of England, and have done their best to disassociate themselves from the report.
Policy Exchange is an independent organisation, but it is no exaggeration to say it does have close links to the Tory Party.
The lesson for all politicians here is never to get to close to a think tank. Coming out with weird and wonderful ideas is part of their job.