North East Devolution and Levelling Up
Penshaw Monument

Coals from Newcastle: one way to level up

Not everyone sees levelling up in the same way as many in the North of England do, including its politicians and this website.

While this site supports devolution as a way to optimise levelling up priorities such as education & skills and local public transport in the North East and other economically lagging regions, there is a reminder today that there are other problems in other parts of the country – and not always a sense of solidarity.

The Northern Research Group (NRG) of Conservative MPs today announced a Levelling Up the North conference to be held at Doncaster Racecourse in June.

‘Over the course of the day’ reports the ConservativeHome website, ‘conference-goers will hear from senior cabinet Ministers, take part in policy sessions hosted by NRG MPs debating tax and the economy, defence, health and devolution, meet fellow Conservatives from across the North of England, and share ideas with colleagues from local government, the business community and the third sector.’

Interesting though the occasion promises to be, equally so is the foretaste of some of the views likely to be heard there provided in the comments section beneath today’s announcement.

‘What about levelling up the South?’ asks one.  ‘Not everywhere is like Kensington & Chelsea. Places like Cornwall and Essex and Kent coastal towns are hardly booming with prosperity. London also has many poor areas. The North gets enough subsidies as it is.’

‘Another Northern based event?’ comments another. ‘Coincidentally on the same day there will be a one-day conference in the Torbay area: ‘Alienating our South Western voters,’ the writer informs us (probably not meaning to be taken literally) before going on to spell out very real  problems such as second homes and holiday traffic congestion.

‘The best way to level up’ says a third, ‘is to fully achieve the goals of Brexit – cut immigration; cut bureaucracy; cut political correctness; deregulation; freeports; small state; and return to traditional British values’.

This commenter is, however, challenged by another over the issues of deregulation, small state and political correctness.

While comments beneath newspaper reports may sometimes be ill-judged, we should not forget that the views of those writing on ConservativeHome who point out that there are places all over the country in need of levelling up, not just regions traditionally regarded as lagging, are mainstream in some quarters.

This website has consistently reminded readers that the Conservative Manifesto 2019 pledged to level up every part of the country and that levelling up grants have been spread from Aberdeen to Plymouth.

The Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs may certainly be expected to press at next month’s conference for the best deal for the North, especially as many of their constituencies are in former ‘red wall’ seats which they must fear losing again at the next general election. But ministers will be mindful too of possible losses in ‘blue wall’ areas elsewhere if levelling up the North is perceived to be at the expense of levelling down the South.

More comments continued to appear on the ConservativeHome website as this blog was being posted, including one advocating opening a coal mine in Newcastle to fuel the Drax power station instead of burning imported wood chip.