Two north Cumbrian Conservative MPs have joined a widespread call for the north of England not to be “left behind” in a post-Covid-19 UK.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson and Workington MP Mark Jenkinson were among 54 Conservative MPs across the north of England and southern Scotland who put their name to a letter sent on Monday to the Prime Minister, urging him to keep to the promises made by the party to “level up” the economy in the north of England.

Both are members of the new Northern Research Group, led by former Northern Powerhouse minister and Lancashire MP Jake Berry.

The group has drawn parallels in the national press to the separate European Research Group – a collective of hardline Eurosceptic MPs who were widely credited as having been highly influential over the Government’s approach to Brexit.

Both Mr Stevenson and Mr Jenkinson rejected the notion that the group is in any way a challenge or a threat to Boris Johnson’s authority within the party, as had yesterday been suggested yesterday in the national press.

Mr Stevenson said the group was formed to help ensure the implementation of the “manifesto commitment from the Conservative Party in 2019".

“It is about having a strategy to improve, to put it bluntly, the economic performance of the north of England”, he said.

“We got elected, led by Boris Johnson, on a manifesto commitment to what we would call ‘levelling up’,” he said.

Mr Jenkinson said he was “absolutely confident” the Prime Minister remains committed to the “levelling up” agenda.

“I’ve been on a number of calls and meetings with the Prime Minister in recent months where he has reiterated that we’re doubling down on levelling up,” he said.

Mr Jenkinson added that this strategy spans a “breadth” of approaches. “There’s no one magic project that will see us ‘levelled up’.

“It’s not just about money either, not just about per capita spending, he added.

“Talent is spread evenly across the country, but opportunity isn’t. That’s what it comes down to, providing that opportunity.”

He added that the Northern Research Group was “fairly united” in “having confidence in the Prime Minister and the Government” on the handling of coronavirus.

“It is unprecedented, and has seen Government move at speeds that we have never seen before,” he said.

“One positive we can take from this is we’ve seen how quickly Government can move when it needs to.”

“This isn’t a suggestion at all that we don’t have confidence.

“It’s just that we are there, speaking with one voice, if you like, to remind our constituents and the Prime Minister that we’re there, we’re the ones who promised when we got elected and got the Government into the position that they’re in.”

Mr Stevenson said that the “levelling up” agenda, to which Mr Johnson has signalled strong commitment, is about “getting investment into the north, raising the wealth of the north and people’s standards of living”.

“Clearly, the pandemic has sidetracked the Government, and that’s utterly understandable.

“But what we want to do is to start looking to the future, looking beyond the pandemic.”

Mr Stevenson added that the group does want to “make sure the Government does stay committed to the manifesto commitments we all signed up to”, but also to “remind the Prime Minister that one of the great challenges for our country is to balance the economy”.

In addition, the Northern Research Group hopes to demonstrate to voters “that the north does actually matter to the Conservative Party”, Mr Stevenson said.

One major short-term commitment that Mr Stevenson hoped to see from the Government was support for nuclear investment in Cumbria.

He said that even though a new nuclear site would be located in west Cumbria, the knock-on positive effects would be felt strongly throughout the county.

“One big area which could make a substantial difference to Cumbria is investment in nuclear.

“We anticipate a White Paper coming out shortly to do with energy policy, and that could be something that combines energy policy with part of the levelling up agenda for places like Cumbria.”

One call made in Monday’s letter to the Prime Minister was for a clear “roadmap” out of tighter Covid-19 restrictions to be outlined.

Mr Stevenson said this did not signal a lack of confidence in the Government’s handling of the Covid-19 response, and in fact praised the Government for the new tiered lockdown system providing greater clarity.

But he added that the Government needs to make sure it looks beyond the winding down of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to how the recovery will be tackled longer term.

“We have to look at how we get out of this - yes, we will be in economic difficulties. That is why we need to look at how we recovery as quickly as possible.”