COVID-19: Boris Johnson’s promise to ‘level’ the country now looks much trickier | Political news

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Standing on the steps of Downing Street after winning the 2019 election, Boris Johnson addressed the country directly: ‘If you are wondering what this new government is going to do, what will it do with its extraordinary majority? , I am going to tell you. .. we will unite and level up. ”

Less than a year ago, he makes his victory speech, but it feels like a lifetime.

“Upgrade” was the main goal behind Boris JohnsonThe post of Prime Minister – but, after the economic crisis of the coronavirus – is it still achievable?

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PM Explains High Levels For Low Infection Areas

Sunday at Sophy Ridge we traveled to Sheffield to investigate.

There is clearly enormous economic potential in the north of England, illustrated by the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center at the University of Sheffield, which is helping to place Britain at the forefront of the competitive engineering market. precision.

The company exports worldwide through Rolls Royce and Siemens and has hired six more people since the first lockdown in March.

But – with national debt now at a level higher than all of UK GDP and additional Brexit pressures looming by the end of the year – will green activity in the north continue to grow?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak this week unveiled a £ 4bn upgrade fund in its spending review, to support cities outside of London and the South East.

But while Advanced Manufacturing chief executive Gareth Morgan says he’s “excited and excited” that leveling up is on the political agenda, he admits “it’s probably not enough” money to make a significant difference.

Perhaps more importantly – for many, the leveling agenda is not just about the amount of money, it is about decentralizing power to Westminster, with decisions about investments and funding being made locally rather than by the government. through central government.

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Henri Murison, of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “If you still have centralized power in Whitehall, your upgrade fund is a beauty pageant, projects for parts of the North and Midlands… to be paraded in front of officials. – it’s not really trusting people.

“The problem is even if you’re more generous financially – if you don’t trust people you don’t give them real power and I don’t think that’s really starting to bridge the gap between north and south. ”

Conservative MPs who made Labor’s “red wall” blue in the last election will also want the Prime Minister to keep his promise to level up.

Jake Berry – Tory MP and former Northern Powerhouse minister – created the Nordic Research Group of 50 Tory MPs across northern England, Wales and the Scottish borders to call on the Prime Minister to tackle the north-south ditch.

Nick Fletcher – the very first Conservative MP for Don Valley – told me that leveling “can take many forms.”

“People desperately need to feel like the government cares about the people of the north. I think they feel like they’ve been left behind for so long and it’s all happening in the south, or at least that’s how they feel and there is certainly some truth to it – inside, ”he said.

In December, the slight promise to level up seemed easy. Now, with the economy crippled by COVID, skyrocketing debt, and many cities the Prime Minister has vowed to help cripple under Tier 3 restrictions, the task ahead is much more delicate. It is far from clear whether the end result will be a race to the top or the bottom.

In his speech on the Downing Street Steps, the Prime Minister said he wanted “to speak directly to those who made it possible and to all who voted for us, for the first time, and to those whose pencils may have -be hesitated during the ballot. and who heard the voices of their parents and grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears.

They lent him their votes in the last election and, unless he fulfills his promise to level the communities in which they live, they can no longer do so.

Watch Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab interviewed on Sophy Ridge Sunday, on Sky News from 8:30 am Sunday

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