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Tube sponsorship should cut subsidies, not fares.

I wouldn’t normally see the BBC London news, but Christopher Cook at the FT tweeted a story and since I was on the train home from my Nan’s in Norwich, I read it.

The Conservative Party group in the London Assembly are suggesting that sponsorship for tube stations be sold to raise hundreds of millions of pounds. That sounds like a good idea to me – especially since my oyster card is currently gathering dust. But their proposal to use the money to cut fares doesn’t sound like the same Tory party I hear bemoaning big government and espousing privatisation here in Leeds.

What’s going on?

The embarrassing truth for small-state Conservatives in an urban age is that the only metropolis they govern is also the one that consumes the most of the state’s money. That’s right; more money is spent per person by the UK government in London than is spent in any other country or region. And don’t worry if you’re surprised by that statement because even as well-informed a man as Jeremy Paxman has been embarrassingly corrected on the issue, live on Newsnight.

London is, of course, a special case and for Conservatives it is doubly special because they overwhelmingly live in or around it. These people may not yet realise it, but now is their chance to set an example of small-state success for the rest of the country to follow. They also may not know that their example to follow already exists here in Leeds.

In Leeds we like sarcasm, but in many ways I'm being serious. How London's Conservatives decide to spend the money they raise selling sponsorship for tube stations will say a lot. My view, and that of much of the North of England, is that the Tories are a party of big government for themselves, and nothing for the rest of us. They won't win an election unless they can prove otherwise.