Most Red Wall seats worse off under Boris Johnson despite levelling up promise

18 May 2022, 14:13

By Seán Hickey

This reporter shares the findings of his extensive investigation into the quality of life in new Conservative constituencies with James O'Brien, revealing a widening gap between the north and the south east.

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Reports have shown that amid the cost of living crisis, the north-south divide is widening – despite the formation of the new Department of Levelling Up, tasked with addressing regional inequalities in Britain.

Bloomberg have found that 86% of former Red Wall seats are now worse off than they were before Boris Johnson became the Prime Minister.

Joe Mayes, who headed the investigation into the impact of levelling up, told James O'Brien that "effectively, the goal is failing."

He explained that the research took into account life expectancy, income and other factors such as access to amenities to determine whether the lives of people in the north of England are improving.

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Michael Gove's department have announced myriad plans to "level up" the north of England, such as unveiling new transport projects, housing developments and re-industrialisation.

The proposals were initially met with intrigue in the traditional Labour heartlands, including in many former "Red Wall" seats the Conservatives won in the 2019 election.

Read more: 'Westminster is dysfunctional': Burnham calls for 'rewiring of UK' to support Levelling Up

The U.K. Politics reporter for Bloomberg told LBC listeners that his investigation has found that "in the Red Wall, indeed, more likely than anywhere else in the country, you were likely to be doing worse than London and the South East sine Boris Johnson became Prime Minister."

Mr Mayes addressed the scale of the "challenge [Mr Johnson] has to stay in power", given that he is relying on many of the Red Wall seats for the overwhelming majority the Conservatives currently hold in the House of Commons.

James wanted to know what has led to these regions "being left exactly where they were" before Boris Johnson took power, to which Mr Mayes explained "it really looks like the government hasn't developed it's plan properly."

He shared a conversation had with a Council leader in Stoke who has struggled to spend Levelling Up funds allocated because developmental infrastructure simply isn't there.

Mr Mayes went on to note that "the buy in from Westminster to actually change things is also quite limited", pointing out how many Civil Service offices still haven't moved outside of London despite Michael Gove's pledges.

He said that constituents in former Red Wall seats "feel very much left behind" by the government, after putting faith in Boris Johnson in 2019.

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