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The North deserves to play for England

The North deserves to play for England
4 min read

It is time for the North to take its rightful seat at the table as an economic powerhouse. It is incumbent on local leaders to seize this opportunity of radical devolution and go full steam ahead to turbo charge their regions.

From Bradford to Bristol, from John O’Groats to Jaywick your life chances are determined by the place you’re born. That is the uncomfortable reality of life in the UK. If we are to truly unite this United Kingdom, geography should not determine your destiny.

It’s heartbreaking that Covid has exacerbated these glaring inequalities to such an extent that if you live in the North you are both more likely to have contracted and to have died from Covid-19.  Not just the cost to life but the economic price has been heavy too with the North being hit the hardest as swathes of the North were put in lockdown longer than other areas of the country.

However, it is not all doom and gloom. Northern grit remains unswayed and ingenuity remains strong. Look at the North East spearheading the UK’s march towards cleaner energy. New high paying jobs for a new world.

That is why it is so important that the government is returning to the compelling narrative of “Levelling up”. Whilst this is designed to appeal to all areas of Britain, it is in the North where it is needed most. 

Talk of transforming communities must be tangible, people should see shovels in the ground, and they must feel real change

Today the Prime Minister was right to retake the initiative and move back onto his home turf of optimism and hope. He very much set out his plans to ‘level up” our disunited kingdom and pull the whole country back on track with a revitalised transport network “as good as London’s” to get us moving on this levelling up journey.

While Boris was right that the private sector much play its part, the government must also create the bedrock to attract that investment. People in the North want to have good, well-paying, local jobs. That is why the radical shake up of devolution will empower local leaders and allow local people to take back control from the shackles of Whitehall.

The importance of strong, local leadership should not be underestimated. It is now incumbent on local leaders to seize this opportunity of radical devolution and go full steam ahead to turbo charge their regions. It is time for the North to take its rightful seat at the table as an economic powerhouse.

Today’s announcement is a welcome start, but the proof will be in the pudding. The government must not devolve and forget, pass the buck, or kick the can down the road. Talk of transforming communities must be tangible, people should see shovels in the ground, and they must feel real change.

People for the first time in decades voted for the Conservative Party in record numbers. It is a historic shift in the geography of Conservative seats. The Prime Minister knows this. His and the Party’s political fate is intrinsically linked to these Northern communities. The electorate placed their unprecedented trust in us and we should not betray that.  For this political success to continue, the Prime Minister must now deliver.

No one in the North cares about party political turf wars between the Conservatives, Labour, or the Liberal Democrats. They want real jobs, real change, and real opportunities. It’s time to start delivering an ambitious programme at pace if we are going to see real progress.  

Levelling up the North should not be seen as a zero-sum game. It is not a ploy that will move investment elsewhere while dulling the bright beacons of places like the “golden triangle”. It means that the lads and lasses of the North can stay in Carlisle or Castleford while not sacrificing their career prospects or life chances.

That is why the Northern Research Group released their 10 point plan for levelling up the North and we will be producing our own white paper. These proposals will be the blueprint of how we fire up the Northern powerhouse furnace.

The North deserves to play for England as much as London. It is time for this nation to become a team.

 

Jake Berry is the Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen and chair of the Northern Research Group (NRG).

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