Big things happening in Joseph Chamberlain’s city
My speech of welcome to the 2016 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
May I offer you a formal welcome to Birmingham – Europe’s youngest city, the city of a thousand trades, this week named Britain’s most enterprising city and, of course, the city of Joseph Chamberlain.
If you’re new to Birmingham, I would urge you to explore all that our city has to offer over the next 72 hours – our culture, our top-class cuisine (we have 5 Michelin starred restaurants) our baltis, our bars and, if you have time, enjoy our amazing shopping experience.
Even if you’ve been before, you will still be amazed at the changes in the last few years – for example our transformed rail gateway at New St Station, Grand Central, and the re-appearance of trams on the city streets.
This is a city living up to its motto and constantly moving “Forward”.
Look out from this wonderful library and you will see that big things are happening in Birmingham.
From the Paradise development (just a few hundred yards down the way) to the Arena Central project which includes the new headquarters of tonight’s sponsors HSBC.
But Birmingham is about more than just the city centre. It’s a joint enterprise, a common endeavour where we now say Every Child, Every Citizen and Every Place matters. It is, indeed, also a city that works for everyone, investing in inclusive economic growth in every part of the city. A mosaic of inclusive growth hubs.
As a successful businessman, Chamberlain in Birmingham was in many ways the father of inclusive economic growth. He realised that big social reform makes economic and business sense.
He did big, bold things in and across this city; and knew that it was making the citizens of Birmingham become the city economy’s greatest asset, by investing in their lives, their conditions. He knew that was good business and good economics and made businesses grow.
Big things are happening in Birmingham now and Chamberlain, I hope, would have approved of our current ambition. He would also have approved of the way this city and this region is shaping its own future.
In uncertain times, you can rest assured that Birmingham is getting on with business and we won’t simply ‘adapt’ to the post-Brexit world – we’ll help shape it.
That’s the message from our business community and it is most definitely the message from the city council.
In recent weeks we’ve:
- Announced our £1 billion Curzon Investment Plan to create 4,000 new homes and 36,000 jobs
- Announced our ambition, as a region, to bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games – a bid with the potential to generate £390 million GVA for the local economy
- We signed a major deal with Chinese property developers to bring up to £2Billion of capital from China to Birmingham, for housing and infrastructure. They’re coming to this city because they know they will get a great return on that investment in the youngest city in Europe. In THE city of growth in Europe.
That investment of £2billion can be made in homes and infrastructure because it makes business and economic sense. And we’ve not borrowed a penny to do that. We’ve brought the shovel-ready capital here ourselves. And with it will comes jobs, homes and skills and great life chances.
I’ve listed some of the major projects but we’re also looking after our SMEs, so I’ll say it again:
- Birmingham was last week crowned the Most Enterprising Place in Britain.
Of course we always were, always have been. But it’s good to be steaming ahead again on national and international recognition of the fact.
Birmingham is the mother of invention, the father of enterprise, and our sons and daughters (30% of our city is under 20 years-old) will re-enterprise the world in a new cradle of creative industry, advanced manufacturing and life sciences.
This is also a creative city and many of you will have seen today’s reports suggesting Channel 4 could relocate to Birmingham. This is the natural place for the channel to thrive and we would welcome Channel 4 – just as we welcomed BBC plans to create a new base for BBC Three here.
So we’re getting on with the business of creating wealth and opportunities for people across this city region. We’re not simply waiting for an Article 50 starting gun.
And that is something I’m sure Joseph Chamberlain would have approved of.
Likewise, I have no doubt he would have welcomed Theresa May’s commitment to working with all of our ‘great regional cities’ (and none are greater than Birmingham!)
I don’t believe the former chancellor’s austerity economics has worked for this city, you’d expect me to say that, I think. But we are where we are and here in Birmingham we will work with the Government to take forward Chamberlain’s vision of civic leadership and social and economic reform.
I have a feeling that you’ll hear a lot about Our Joe this week and quite rightly too. We’re proud of that.
But don’t for one minute think that’s because we’re obsessed with looking to the past.
Yes we can still learn much from Chamberlain’s municipal socialism (and we don’t have to whisper that word, because it’s Chamberlain) But this is a forward looking, ambitious and creative city that continues to evolve and re-invent itself.
Actions of course will speak louder than words but I firmly believe that this city and this region can and should be at the forefront of any plan to rebalance, or perhaps better put, to refound the economy. The Birmingham City Region must be crucial to the development of this nation’s Industrial Strategy.
I am assured personally that Greg Clarke knows that, has said as much himself in this city the day he was appointed to his new role.
Birmingham, its citizens, its youth, its academics, its businesses and manufacturers stand ready to serve the nation in that crucial refounding of our industrial economy.
Working with our partners and neighbours in the West Midlands Combined Authority (the biggest combined authority by far, by the way) we’ve already negotiated an unprecedented Devolution Agreement to unlock £8bn of investment into the region over the next 30 years.
Sajid – your constituency is just one-and-a-half miles from my ward of Quinton on the edge of Birmingham – and I can assure you and the Government that we will continue creating the growth that will benefit your constituents. But it must be inclusive growth. We will invest in jobs and skills and we will build much needed homes.
We will ensure the region capitalises on the game-changer that is HS2.
And, through the Combined Authority, Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect, we will continue to be an economic driver for both the UK and Europe.
But this is just the start.
Winston Churchill said Joseph Chamberlain was ‘the man who made the weather’. He was a man who led where others followed.
I like that and just over 100 years after the great man’s death, you can be sure that Chamberlain’s city is ready to once again lead from the front.
So give us the powers and we’ll deliver – not just for Birmingham and the West Midlands – but for Britain.