Boris Johnson’s flagship ‘leveling’ speech has been criticized by pundits for containing little new policy as Tory MPs fear the guiding principle of his post as PM will become little more than a sound sample .
Two years after first pledging to take it to the next level, the Prime Minister traveled to Coventry to deliver a free speech heavy with rhetorical flourishes but light in detail, and urged local leaders to send their own suggestions.
Think tanks, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies and IPPR North, said it contained nothing new and that it was time for “action, not talk.”
While Johnson’s upgrading adviser, Harborough MP Neil O’Brien, is much appreciated, some MPs are starting to worry about the substance of the plans.
Tory MP Laura Farris told the BBC on Thursday that leveling was an ambiguous phrase that ‘means whatever anyone wants it to mean’, and a former minister said of the speech: ‘He seems to throw him l kitchen sink which suggests that there isn’t much of a cohesive idea behind it.
Johnson said in his speech that strong leadership was “the yeast that lifts the whole mattress of dough, the magic sauce, the ketchup of catching up,” and suggested he would like to see more local mayors, perhaps at the level County. He then appeared to say he wouldn’t want to delegate too much power in case the ‘mad left’ took matters into their own hands.
“Of course you can see the risk and the trap in all of this. We must learn the lessons of the past 50 years. Ken Livingstone of the 2000s was a very different creature from Ken Livingstone of the 1980s, but the Mad Left is still pretty mad and we need accountability, ”he said.
He called for more “county agreements” to delegate power to local areas, which he said would not be “one size fits all.” Several county devolution agreements already exist. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick separately announced 15 more city agreements on Thursday to fund Main Street regeneration.
Johnson also reiterated a range of existing government policies, many of which apply across the UK, including hiring new nurses and increasing the science budget, and he sought to reassure concerned Southern MPs that their constituents forget that leveling applies across the country.
Further upgrade policies are expected in a white paper on the subject in the fall, but pundits criticized the speech for failing to address the issues of economic inequality and imbalances set out by Johnson, and for contradicting other government policies.
Erica Roscoe, senior researcher at IPPR North, said: “Boris Johnson promised to ‘upgrade’ the country in his first speech as Prime Minister. It was welcome rhetoric, but after two years our deep divisions between and within regions are growing, and places like the north are still waiting for the powers, resources and transparency they need from government. to upgrade.
“The need for action, not words, has never been so urgent. “
Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said: “The speech was light on the new ‘level-up’ policies, but the problem is much bigger that the government already has a big level-down policy. – the £ 20 per week cut from universal credit. One in three households in the Midlands and the North will lose £ 1,000 a year, compared to one in five in the South East. “
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “There is nothing new, neither about the diagnosis, nor that you need to do something about it, or anything that has. been said. Decentralization may well be part of the solution to the UK’s unbalanced economy, but “the fundamental issue is jobs and skills,” he said.
Coventry South MP Zarah Sultana said: “Boris Johnson came to Coventry today to talk about ‘leveling up’, but he’s not fooling anyone. It is a sound extract devoid of meaning, totally at odds with his record in power. His party has overseen 11 years of controlled decline and stabilization “Johnson didn’t even bother to mention Coventry once in his speech. “
Former hostile adviser to the Prime Minister Dominic Cummings wrote on his blog that the leveling was’ just an empty slogan ‘which Johnson had proposed’ partly out of irritation at being asked to focus on the main message in 2019 and partly because he was irritated with people who call him a puppet who repeats my slogans ”.