Michael Burton 27 October 2020

Blue wall rebels call for economic kickstart

Northern Tory MPs led by the former Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry have urged their government to kickstart its promised ‘levelling up’ agenda with a Northern Economic Recovery Plan.

The MPs, many of then in so-called ‘red wall’ seats won from Labour in the last general election, are angry at what they fear is a softening in the government’s commitment to invest in the North.

A letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson signed by 50 Tory MPs in the new Northern Research Group from the North, north Wales and the Scottish Borders, says ‘we cannot forget we must deliver on our commitments to level up northern communities.’ They express ‘concerns that the cost of COVID could be paid for by the downgrading of the levellong-up agenda.’

They criticised his handling of negotiations last week with city region mayors adding: ‘The virus has exposed in sharp relief the deep structural and systemic disadvantage faced by our communities and it threatens to continue to increase the disparity between the North and South still further.’

The MPs, many of them in seats now covered by tier three lockdowns, want greater clarity about lockdown plans, a ‘reprofiling’ of infrastructure plans on transport and broadband connectivity. In light of the Spending Review now focussing on one year, the MPs also call for a Northern Economic Recovery Plan.

No 10 spokesman said it was ‘absolutely committed to levelling up across the country and building back better after coronavirus.’

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