Things Richard III could teach us about ‘soft’ power

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS / NEWS - Greg Wright DEPUTY BUSI­NESS ED­I­TOR @greg­wrightYP

PROJECTS to boost the North’s eco­nomic clout are a bit like buses. You wait 540 years and two come along at once.

With much fan­fare, the Gov­ern­ment is es­tab­lish­ing a new North­ern Pow­er­house project which it be­lieves will shift the North’s econ­omy into over­drive.

North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter Jake Berry says it will give North­ern busi­nesses the chance to speak with one voice for the first time since 1472, when King Ed­ward IV – the af­fa­ble 15th cen­tury an­swer to Gareth South­gate – es­tab­lished a Coun­cil of the North to en­sure Eng­land’s no­bil­ity up­held the law and be­haved like team play­ers.

The new coun­cil sounds an ex­cit­ing con­cept. The board will be made up of the chairs of the 11 Lo­cal En­ter­prise Part­ner­ships in the North of Eng­land and it will re­port to the Gov­ern­ment ev­ery quar­ter. Us­ing their in-depth lo­cal knowl­edge, the board will ad­vise the Gov­ern­ment on how to boost pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­duce the North-South di­vide.

The body’s of­fi­cial ti­tle – “NP11”– may not set the pulse rac­ing, but it cer­tainly de­serves an op­por­tu­nity to see if it can make a dif­fer­ence.

It’s worth not­ing, how­ever, that an­other body, the North­ern Pow­er­house Part­ner­ship (NPP) was founded in 2016 with the aim of en­cour­ag­ing cities and coun­ties across the North to work to­gether. Chaired by the former Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Os­borne, the NPP’s of­fi­cial goal is “to en­cour­age new pol­icy ideas which will im­prove the North’s qual­ity of life and econ­omy, and pro­mote it as a place to work, study, live and in­vest”.

These aims are very sim­i­lar to the ob­jec­tives of the new Coun­cil for the North.

Hope­fully mem­bers of NPP’s busi­ness-led board will pick up the phone and speak to their coun­ter­parts on this new body.

But what about the orig­i­nal Coun­cil of the North? Can we learn from its suc­cesses and fail­ures? We may feel some sym­pa­thy with the plight of 15th cen­tury north­ern­ers. Ed­ward IV es­tab­lished the coun­cil be­cause the North had suf­fered from cen­turies of ne­glect, largely be­cause it was far away from the seat of power.

And who did he choose to pre­side over the coun­cil to bring or­der in trou­bled times? His loyal brother – Richard, Duke of Glouces­ter, who would later be­come King Richard III; the ul­ti­mate in­sider.

To­day, Richard is one of the most con­tro­ver­sial fig­ures in Bri­tish his­tory.

Crit­ics re­gard him as a usurper who mur­dered his neph­ews to clear a path to the throne.

His de­fend­ers be­lieve he should be re­garded as a far-sighted monarch whose rep­u­ta­tion was al­most de­stroyed by the Tu­dor pro­pa­ganda ma­chine.

But, in the con­text of the for­ma­tion of the Coun­cil of the North, we must re­mem­ber that Richard had good lo­cal knowl­edge – he spent much of his early life in York­shire – and a strong na­tional pro­file.

He could pe­ti­tion the King di­rectly to get what he wanted for the North of Eng­land.

The “coun­cil” was dom­i­nated by a leader who knew how to use what we to­day term “soft power”; the abil­ity to per­suade with­out co­er­cion, a tes­ta­ment to this is the num­ber of re­tain­ers who re­fused to aban­don Richard at the Bat­tle of Bos­worth, when his cause was lost.

To­day, a sin­gle tweet from Richard would have sent a thou­sand courtiers scur­ry­ing. These ob­ser­va­tions are rel­e­vant to the new Coun­cil of the

North be­cause they show that noth­ing is more im­por­tant than lead­er­ship; you still need a sin­gle, charis­matic fig­ure to drive through change.

The orig­i­nal coun­cil, which was shaped by Richard’s be­lief in strong gov­er­nance, was a for­mi­da­ble body.

It was his great­est achieve­ment, up­hold­ing the in­ter­ests of the North and its peo­ple for al­most 170 years, un­til it was swept away by the civil war. It should be a source of in­spi­ra­tion to those who seek to en­sure that the new look Coun­cil of the North re­ally does de­liver last­ing eco­nomic change in our re­gion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.