October 26th, 2022
Written by John Grogan
Clarity is needed on where the Government stands this morning on two key policy issues central to the future of the North of England. The brief Truss led administration started a review of the decision to privatise Channel 4 and also re committed itself to building in full Northern Powerhouse Rail which would mean a high-speed link across the Pennines linking Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.
But new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak took a very different view on both counts during the leadership contest:
On 28th July 2022 after a debate in the leadership contest the Yorkshire Post headline declared that ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail: Rishi Sunak refuses to commit to train plans.’ The article went on to say that: ‘The former Chancellor of the Exchequer is widely believed to have been behind the scaling- back of plans for what was a flagship project last year’.
Just earlier in October the then Prime Minister Liz Truss reiterated a promise to deliver high-speed rail in the North of England previously cancelled under the Johnson administration. What is Government Policy today?
Equally as regards Channel 4 the Guardian reported on July 22nd that a Sunak campaign spokesperson said: “Rishi will take forward Channel 4’s privatisation. Channel 4 is a crucial part of British broadcasting and supports our brilliant creative industries, but a lot has changed since the 1980s when it was set up to provide viewers with more choice.
“Privatisation will help Channel 4 to thrive in an age where they are also competing with Netflix, Amazon, Apple and many more – standing still is not an option.”
Nevertheless, when Liz Truss became Prime Minister on September 20th, 2022, the Press Gazette reported that; ‘The new government led by Liz Truss is re-examining the business case for the privatisation of Channel 4, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said.’ Ms Donelan has just been reappointed by Mr Sunak as Culture Secretary. So, what is the policy on Channel 4 today?
Between 2017 and 2019 I was fortunate enough to serve as Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Channel 4 and Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Rail Group in the North. It is a matter of regret that for the last three years the Government has essentially been treading water on both the future of Channel 4 (which should stay firmly in the public sector) and on high-speed rail for the North of England.