Friday 17 November 2017

EU funding was always propaganda

Following my piece on the FT's poverty safari, a friend sent me this video featuring Nick Clegg on a safari of his own in Ebbw Vale in South Wales. It features little Cleggy boy puzzling himself as to why the ungrateful plebs could have voted to leave the EU when there are so many shiny regeneration projects stamped with a blue flag in the district.

Not least of those is a £2.5 million European Union funded funicular (pictured). Yep. Somebody somewhere thought that was a worthwhile regeneration project. 

This is very much a product of quangocrat thinking who have no concept of how to go about regeneration. All they know is they have a budget and they must spend it. This is the product of central economic planning.

One other example of this thinking can be found in this Guardian piece, exploring what needs to be done to close the north/south divide:

"Unlike the overcrowded south-east, the north is not short of homes, but its housing stock is often run down and energy inefficient. So there should be a nationwide programme to improve insulation, starting with cities in the north. Such a scheme would cut fuel bills, reduce carbon emissions and provide well-paid jobs for local people".

No it wouldn't. Get real. A fund would be set up. It would be farmed out to councils who would manage it badly, waste most of it, fail to install insulation on more than a handful of homes, probably of the wrong type, resulting in no meaningful reduction in bills and largely installed by corporate contractors, each of whom would take their skim off the top. Cynical? No. Because that is what happens every single time. Eyes passim. These people never learn.

All the while the deeply ingrained obsession with carbon emissions means they will always take the most cost effective means off the table while convincing themselves that the most expensive, least effective means is in the long term interest, thus justifying the vast sums of our money thrown at these initiatives. But these people are experts donchaknow.

The fact of the matter is that these places are never going to be restored to their former glory and the locals know it. The towns aren't going to be regenerated and no stainless steel dragon sculpture is going to offset the encroachment of the internet on high street retail. The only thing that keeps small rural towns afloat is tourism and and that's only if they have a particular charm, which former mining towns are not known for. 

In this respect one can quite understand the growing resentment as millions are spent on clueless baubles to decorate these derelict towns. They might marginally improve the look of the place but unsurprisingly such "regeneration" rapidly falls into disrepair and soon looks tarnished. One is often unsurprised to see that regeneration projects carrying a blue flag plaque are now tatty relics from the 90s. The places are abandoned even by the EU. 

The difficult truth we have to face up to is that the best regeneration for any of these places is yellow, caterpillar tracked with a large dozer blade on the front. We are living in a post industrial era and increasingly we are moving to a post-work economy. In the past it has been a policy priority to try and prevent agglomeration but now with small businesses catering for evermore niche interests, policy must look to creating cities large enough to create markets for them, lest everything gravitate toward London. 

Strategically we need let the inherent crunch points of London be their own deterrent, with no policy attempts to remedy them, while investing in Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester. The wrecks and relics of the industrial revolution are far beyond salvation and only private money in the hands of individuals can ever really bring life back to them. That is only going to happen when we allow private capital to do its thing. 

The public cannot be bought with their own money, nor do they wish to see it squandered on political vanity projects and white elephants. This is something the EU and its advocates has never understood. All the blue plaques achieve is to remind us that we are a defeated, occupied country kept afloat with subsistence grants - dressed up as the munificence of eurocrats even though the money is ours. This spending we have absolutely no say in. Had Ebbw Vale's local population had a referendum on how to spend £2.5m I am certain a funicular would not have been top of the list. 

The intent of the European Regional Development Fund was always to buy the advocacy of idiots like Nick Clegg. It rather looks like it worked on him. It did not, however, work on the people of South Wales, who have more depth and wisdom than our entire political class (if not the education). It is for that reason I will take democracy over technocracy any day of the week.  

Meanwhile, as we are on the subject of funding for decrepit relics struggling to survive and fading in relevance, don't forget to donate to this blog. This is one cause the EU is not going to bail out. 

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