OPINION: The Tories are eager to get back in the North’s good books and have launched a charm offensive

Yesterday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt both visited the Nissan plant where they celebrated a new mega multi-billion investment in electric vehicles.

Nobody can deny this is fantastic news for Sunderland and North East jobs, but SGM’s impression is that they seem to be “politically bandwagoning” on this development and attempting to take credit for winning jobs in our region.

How exactly, is it owed to them? The answer is, it isn’t. The Nissan factory has become a political football as many feared for its future amidst Brexit, although thankfully that was never the case. However, since that time the factory has instead become a political magnet for Conservative leaders to score points for themselves in order to project the image of support for the North East.

When Jeremy Hunt was asked about the Crown Works Studios that would also be another game changing investment in our city, the good news was that he publicly confirmed talks had taken place, and then made a remark about having the next Barbie filmed in Sunderland.

But again, the comment smacked of political opportunism, as optimistic as it is, and it is hard to separate this showcasing from the reality that there is an election on the horizon, and accordingly, the government is well and truly in that mode with the autumn statement attempting to bribe traditional Conservative voters. They would very much like to “buy” the North East off.

The Conservatives of course, are facing record popularity and a defeat which is seemingly imminent. The appeal they are making to the north is trying to claw back the “red wall” voters from Labour, which on current polling would see every single seat they arned lost. This could mean the government even goes as far as making an unsubstantiated promise to fund that studio as part of an election pledge and then never fulfilling it precisely because they lose.

Saying that, even more expectation would be placed upon the Keir Starmer Labour government, should it come into power, to deliver the funding for it. Is there any good reason not to go ahead with it? Of course not, it’s the most ambitious project Sunderland has seen… since Nissan itself… so we can only hope politicians do not mess it up, but that’s precisely why we have to be cynical of the Conservative’s attempts to woo us for votes, for now.