Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Want To Know How To Win In The North? Promise Complete Local Control Of Fracking Rights And Revenues

One of the most depression things about the Political Class is not just the cynicism of their decision making but the numbers of opportunities missed due to their myopia and sheer lack of courage.

Cameron, Clegg, Osborne et al. have never taken any risks in life and it shows. Their natural mediocrity means they fail to appreciate just how well people can rise to the challenge given the opportunity.

One such opportunity is fracking, which represents a glorious, perhaps once in a century opportunity to reinvigorate the industrial economy of Northern England and set it on a path to become the proud, wealth-producing region it once was and can be again.

This blog passionately argued that fracking was best exploited by giving local people and council's complete control over fracking rights and revenue-generation. Fracking is after all an intensely local issue, not just in the sense that the resource itself is of course terrestrially defined by local geology, but also by the fact that the gas produced, being a high volume product, is not easily transported. Thirdly, any environmental effects, such as the effects on ground water reservoirs, are largely local as well.

Here was an issue that cried out for genuine localism and a hands-off approach from the Treasury. Instead, Osborne - ever the Political Class schemer - advocated a pathetic level of local renumeration and incentives that is now predictably unravelling before his eyes.

It is now clear that the incentives offered by Osborne will not be enough and that greater local renumeration will be necessary to get local communities to accept fracking. In the meantime, it's start looks like to be depressingly delayed, both lessening the prospects of local regeneration and giving it's enemies more time to organise. However, even if fracking does get off the ground, there is a very real danger that it will become just another 'resource curse' that a visionless, bean counting Treasury and cynical political class will blow for their own short term gain, rather than using this magnificent opportunity to rebalance the economy and allow whole regions to rise from the ashes of deindustrialisation.

Herein lies a fantastic chance for UKIP: a bold scheme that promised complete local control of fracking decision making and revenue collection would likely prove very popular and put rocket boosters under our May 2014 local government campaigns. If a local area decides against fracking - fine - it can vote it down. If it does want it - great. It is highly likely that those post-industrial Northern regions overlying the gas-rich Bowland shale would jump at the chance; UKIP could start to seriously threaten Labour hegemony and truly cement it's position as the second party of the North if it promised to give them the opportunity.

More importantly, it is the right thing to do. Centralised, Westminster control over our economy has demonstrably failed, resulting in the lop-sided, London-centric country we have today. For over 30 years, the post-industrial regions of Northern England have felt side-lined and humiliated. Psychologically, these areas will only ever be reconciled to capitalism when they can fashion it on their own terms, just as they did during the Industrial Revolution. For that to work, they have to be given control over their own destinies that the revenues and cheap energy that fracking promises to allow.

Let's be bold by having faith in the good sense and enterprise of local people and, in the process, outflank the tired and cynical LibLabCon once again.

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