Monday, September 25, 2006

Whose Regeneration Is It Anyway?

I would imagine that many of the speakers at the Labour conference will match Gordon Brown's valediction for Manchester's Labour council and the regeneration of the city centre after the IRA bombing of 1996 (any resemblance between this valediction and campaigning for the council by-election next month is entirely co-incidental, of course...)

The regeneration is one of the big challenges we face as Liberal Democrats trying to take the Town Hall; how do you convince people that the city is in decline when all around them is glass and steel? But you do have to ask yourself why the regeneration happened; whose fault was it?

Are we to believe that a Labour party that believes that devolving power to local communities should never involve anything so gauche as elected councillors gave Manchester a unique exemption to actively produce a miraculous economic and architectural turnaround through local endeavour?

Or is it more likely that a powerless council took advantage of benevolent economic conditions by metaphorically removing their trousers and asking property developers to take them roughly from behind? (And man, are you going to wish I'd never put that image in your head...)

If any firm evidence were needed of the ludicrousness of claiming Manchester's regeneration as a Labour achievement, one need only look at URBIS, the one building actually built by the council itself.

As well as being one of the ugliest of the whole bunch, it sucks up over a million pounds a year to be a "Museum Of Modern Life". Or at least it would, except that it doesn't qualify legally as a museum at all, so it just sucks up the money.

The point is clear; we are the party of democratic, local government. Whatever our philosophical direction, we must follow through on our advantage and destroy the credibility of the other parties in local government.

No comments: