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Opinion: Howell’s That! – (This Lord Does Not Speak For Guildford)

Published on: 4 Aug, 2013
Updated on: 4 Aug, 2013

By Martin Giles

If Lord David Howell of Guildford had been batting for England this week he would have been out ‘hit wicket’.

Opinion Logo 2He did not need to enter the debate on fracking and considering his declared interests in, and connections to, the energy industry he should have stayed firmly among the spectators in the pavilion. But he marched to the crease and with a careless, even arrogant, swipe of his bat flattened all three of his own stumps. No wonder there was an audible groan from his team mates.

Thankfully he was not batting for England, just himself perhaps. Anyway, our compatriots in the north have been quick to jump on a southerner bashing bandwagon. In The Journal, a Newcastle-based newspaper, it was written: “the noble Lord Howell of Derision – another ex-Tory minister with Eton, Cambridge and a home in Guildford on his CV”.

The implication is clear, a “home in Guildford” together with an Etonian and Oxbridge education equates, in the writer’s mind, to a position in the establishment, a London centric clique.

But it is more than that. The view from other regions seems to be that the whole south east of England is:

  1. synonymous with London;
  2. populated mostly with bankers on bonuses, stock brokers, public school types and disingenuous wide boys on the make;
  3. entirely urban;
  4. conspiring to subjugate and rip off the rest of the UK.

This is hardly surprising if we are to be judged by the utterances of Lord Howell of Guildford. But it is a great shame.

I have been lucky enough during 10 years in the army to see most regions of the UK and serve with soldiers that came from all of those regions too. It left me certain that we have far more in common than divides us.

But the demise of the traditional industries has left deep scars. While change might have been inevitable it could have been managed far better so that inter region resentment did not build up in the way it has.

Most of us in the south don’t despise the rest of the UK, far from it,  and would much prefer to see economic developments in other regions to relieve the pressure on our own over heated corner. It cannot be good for anyone in the UK for us to have such a disparity in economic activity between one region and the rest.

Many of us here are concerned that that there is no end in prospect to the relentless pressure for growth and development in our region. It has even now become tacitly accepted that we need to build on green belt land, something we have protected for centuries, to cope with an ever increasing population.

Alderman Gordon Bridger has astutely pointed out that the economic success of Guildford relies not so much on retail and others service industries as on the new technology sector. It is very good for us that it has been successful and part of that success has been caused by the popularity of Guildford as a place to live.

But if we do not control the growth carefully, and encourage economic development in the other regions, we could be in danger of destroying the very attractiveness that has created it in the first place and, along the way, diminish the quality of life of those of us who live here.

One surprising champion of our region emerged in June during BBC’s Question Time in June was George Galloway MP. A claim was made that a Scots politician in England might expect similar treatment given to the UKIP leader Nigel Farage, in Edinburgh.

Mr Galloway, obviously a Scot himself, reminded the audience that there has been a disproportionate number of Scots in British politics but it was rarely a cause of any controversy let alone venomous spite of the type displayed towards Farage. He also pointed out that there were plenty of areas of economic deprivation in London too.

Our country desperately needs a leader of vision to lead it away from its old fashioned and ineffectual political model because that’s where the real fault lies. If Guildford needs a masterplan then so too perhaps does the UK, a plan that would motivate those in all four corners of the country put forward by a politician who transparently has the interests of the whole population, regardless of background or region, at heart.

Dream on I hear you think… but then, as Kipling said, “…If you can dream – and not let dreams be your master…”

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test One Response to Opinion: Howell’s That! – (This Lord Does Not Speak For Guildford)

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    August 5, 2013 at 6:53 am

    It is sad to see that our town and its people being dragged by default into this fracking debate when we have so many of our own problems here at home.

    I sincerely hope that the general public realise that such comments made are not are not held by true Guildfordians.

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