CUMBRIAN MP John Stevenson MP thinks ‘regional devolution and decision making is the key’ to levelling up.

This followed a meeting the week earlier, when over 300 delegates attended the inaugural Northern Research Group (NRG) conference in Doncaster, including over 30 Conservative MPs.

The NRG is a lobby group established within the Conservative party in Westminster.

Its chair Jake Berry MP, told the conference: “While people and communities in the north have been crying out for grassroots change, all Whitehall has given us is astroturf.

“If levelling up is to mean anything it must be radical. That means an end to incremental government, and an end to the conservation of southern privilege, because whether they like it or not, this is our new political reality.”

Spot on – but why did it take them so long? Because they have been willing players in London’s divide-and-rule agenda up to now.

Deindustrialised communities in the North have been fed crumbs from London’s table since the 1960s.

All the establishment parties – Labour as much as the Conservatives – play the same game, to the extent that Labour now looks and sounds more like a party of southerners than the Tories do.

Why has the North failed to level up over the past 60 years? Because it has no political power base of its own – its begging bowl is in London’s hands, and London never takes a decision to its disadvantage.

An example is the recently-announced cuts in High Speed Rail to the North and beyond in the same month that London opened yet another state-of-the-art Underground line for its own benefit.

Now there’s no money left to spend on northern railway improvements.

Even while the UK was a member of the EU with its Regional Development Fund, London still took the lion’s share of not just private but also public investment.

So here are my proposals for rebalancing politics and investment in England:

  • No more elected mayors – that’s part of the divide and rule strategy.
  • Cut and paste the legislation enabling Scottish devolution into new legislation establishing nine regional assemblies across England with one difference – that MPs sit in both the UK parliament in London as well as in their respective regional assemblies. The amount of governance needed overall will not change – it will just take place in two separate locations.
  • Employ the Barnett formula to determine the distribution of public expenditure across the English regions based on need rather than who has the loudest voice in Whitehall.

The overall effect would be to transform England into a federation of politically equal regions, and the UK into a federation of nations and regions.

Following from that, I think the current political parties should also federate.

That would certainly break the dominance of the London agenda in Labour politics which delivered inner London MP Jeremy Corbyn as the party’s last leader, and then replaced him with neighbouring inner London MP Keir Starmer.

Labour has far more potential voters outside of London than in it, but won’t attract their support until it starts focusing on their bread and butter needs rather than London Labour’s WOKE agenda.

The Conservative party has a similar challenge.  It seems that even though the 80 Tory MPs who took previous Red Wall seats in 2019 have the whip hand, they aren’t yet prepared to use it.

So what else are they waiting for?

Bill Finlay