There is something very worrying about Newsnight - Paul Mason and economics.
This week Mason visited Eccles, to investigate the economic recovery and how it is affecting job growth in the North West. Eccles, why choose Eccles?
Well, we learned, there are 77 outlets selling alcohol within one kilometer along the high street. Do the maths, that’s one every 12 metres. Pawn shops and betting shops can be used to break up the pub crawl and provide additional funding en route. So what can we do to restore the Eccles high street to it’s former glory, asks the man born in Leigh, educated in Bolton and with a degree in music from Sheffield?
It will take ten years, real jobs and training in skills to begin to restore the balance says Alec McFadden, from the Salford Unemployed Community Centre. There is no quick fix! Quite right Alec. Alec has been engaged with this problem for some time now.
Eccles is what we call in economics “ a structural problem” says the itinerant BBC presenter. No it’s not, it is representation of social deprivation in a specific area of the Greater Manchester. It is also an example of what can happen to a high street, when the Trafford Centre, two retail parks, a Costco, B & Q, Asda and Marks and Spencer open up within a ten minute drive time.
Newsnight could have made a visit to Media City, a great example of job creation and infrastructure investment into the new dynamic growth areas of digital and creative media. After all, it’s only ten minutes away by tram, a great example of infrastructure investment in Greater Manchester, part of the Transport for Greater Manchester Plan. Whilst there, he could have visited the Salford University New Media Campus, after all Manchester has one of the largest university student populations in Europe. He could have arrived by plane, reminding viewers we have just bought Stansted. Had he done so, he would have passed the Airport Enterprise Zone en route within sight of the new Medi Park, both on track to create a substantial number of new jobs over the next five years within Greater Manchester.
No, Newsnight had to go to Eccles. It had been a long day. Paul had taken breakfast in a pop up breakfast bar in Soho, it doubles as a bar in the evening. “It’s what we call in economics using spare capacity” says the man who once trained to be a music teacher. No it’s not. It’s a pop up shop using space capacity, not quite the same thing as doubling up shifts on a car production line to meet demand in a growing economy.
For lunch, Paul was in the Midlands to visit BSA Machine Tools. Now with 35 workers, Paul wanted to understand the constraints to growth. BSA Cycles Ltd and BSA Guns Ltd also in Birmingham, once controlled 67 factories, employed 28,000 people and contained 25,000 machine tools. The now much smaller BSA Machine tools was struggling to expand again because of a lack of skilled labour and and access to finance. Shocking, the problem - labour skills and those banks again.
Mason claimed “It was said the recovery would be led by industry and exports to rebalance the economy”. Not really Paul, The march of the makers rebuilding the workshop of the world was always a Whitehall dream. Most economists never really believed that anyway.
Will the problems of capacity constraints in Birmingham and Eccles lead to low growth in the UK economy as a whole? He asked. Of course not. Job creation continues at pace in the private sector. The problems exposed in the world of Paul Mason’s economics are not “structural” problems, they represent myopic, misleading perceptions of economic reality which do nothing for the reputation and image of Manchester and the North West. They don’t do much for the reputation of Newsnight either
The closing shot featured Paul Mason having “tea” in Eccles, fish and chips on the high street. The people of Eccles looked on. They have no jobs, well let them eat Eccles cakes, the obvious solution. The journey north did not reveal the UK's skewed economic recovery, more the skewed thinking on Newsnight.
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