Alan Wheatley: Revival of Britain’s faded northeast a serious challenge for David Cameron
TRACTS of bare ground dot the vast Wilton chemical complex, a reminder of long-demolished plants that bear ghostly witness to the industrial decline of the world's first manufacturing nation.
Just over 20 years ago, 12,000 people worked at Wilton on the banks of the River Tees in northeast England. Today, 4,000 remain. Back in 1862, Prime Minister William Gladstone marvelled at the might of next-door Middlesbrough, calling it the 'infant Hercules'. The iron, steel, shipbuilding and mining industries of the northeast are now a shadow of what they once were.
The northeast has the highest unemployment rate and the lowest household incomes in the UK. Life expectancy is among the lowest in the country. Reviving the region is an important test for government plans to reduce Britain's dependence on financial services and the prosperous southeast.