“It takes a lot longer to get up north, the slow way. Thus, the unforgettable words of Ian Dury, now brought to life by business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, who arrived in Middlesbrough yesterday in preparation for cutting the ribbon, or holding the spade, or whatever they’re going to be doing on the Teesworks site today. Presumably he wanted to get as far away from Boris Johnson as possible so that he didn’t have to explain to anyone whether he was a Johnson loyalist or not.
For today is the day that construction of the giant SeAH monopile manufacturing plant will officially begin. The plant, once operational, promises to bring 750 jobs to Teesside.
If you want to see exactly what’s going on at Teesworks, however, don’t bother switching your TV on. All national media have been banned from the event. Here’s Alex Thompson, chief correspondent for Channel 4 News:
Ben Houchen’s world
Alex Thomson will have to watch the livestream on Houchen’s Facebook like everybody else. Well, nearly everybody else. That doesn’t include us. We have been blocked by Houchen from both his Facebook page and his Twitter feed. We are not the only ones. We are constantly getting notification from people who have been blocked by him. Censorship, it seems, is a strategy for every day in Houchen’s world.
And it’s plain to see why Houchen is suddenly so camera-shy. Had he allowed the press in, they would listen politely to the bombast about regenerating Teesside, and then inundated both him and Kwarteng with questions about Johnson, a topic on which he has remained curiously silent.
Houchen himself faces an uncertain future now that his mentor and ally has been deposed. Will the PM’s replacement be as amenable as Johnson has been? Will Houchen continue to have the power to make public money disappear into ventures that are beyond scrutiny? Time will tell. It is perhaps unlikely that MPs will replace Johnson with another charlatan, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
As for today’s event, it appears to be something to do with a £400 million investment. If anyone saw the video they could perhaps let us know whose £400 million it is. All we know for certain is that regardless of whose pocket the money comes out of, a generous portion of it will go to local property developers, Martin Corney and Chris Musgrave whose companies now own 90% of Teesworks Limited.
Within the past few days, on information obtained from the UK land registry, we can confirm that SeAH has become the leaseholder of the land on which the factory is to be built, while the freehold, and thus ultimate ownership of the land, has passed simultaneously to Teesworks Limited. Another thing that Houchen might prefer not to be questioned about.