March newsletter note
Author: Liam Booth-Smith |
“If you can’t annoy somebody” wrote Kingsley Amis, “there is little point in writing.” With so many Localis reports being released in the coming months I’ve taken a few hours to consider who we’ll be annoying. I was heartened to realise the answer is ‘lots of people’. We’re covering some ground; Industrial Strategy in March, Childcare Market in April, Homelessness in May, Adolescent Mental Health in June, Health and Care in July. After a quiet start to the year drafting and redrafting, it’s exciting to be upping the pace and putting more ideas out into the world.
As a proud son of Stoke-on-Trent I followed the recent by-election with great interest. I was, however, pretty disappointed with the commentary about the place. I know journalists are under pressure to file colourful copy but the number of pieces I read referring to a ‘skyline of bottle oven kilns’ became unbearable. Namely because there are hardly any left in Stoke-on-Trent, about 50, down from 2,000 in the 1950s. Many of those still standing are on industrial parks far from view or have morphed into modern buildings via renovation, retaining a vague resemblance to their original form.
I make this point because the by-election in Stoke was mis-sold by pretty much everyone. Politically as a proxy skirmish for Brexit, when in reality it was a scrap over local issues. And by commentators as the ‘left behind’ against the establishment. When I asked my grandmother, a Stoke resident her whole life, what she would vote on, she replied; “parkin’ up Asda, stop them bastards from blockin’ me road.” I have no idea who she voted for, but I’m confident they didn’t have much to say on parkin’ up Asda.
Stoke and Copeland were reminders that place matters and, in spite of our penchant in Westminster for imposing narratives on people and places (left behind, just about managing, living under the skyline of bottle oven kilns), those same people and places will define the terms of their own debate. It’s our job to be a part of it, not the other way around.
I’ll close on some house business, we’ve got events on the Industrial Strategy, housing white paper, integration and mental health all happening over March and April, and details are below. If you’re interested in attending then let us know.