Tory former deputy Prime Minister accuses ministers of “sloganising” and lacking the political will to tackle regional inequalities after Michael Gove speech
Image: Chris J Ratcliffe)
Former deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine has launched a scathing attack on Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda.
The Tory peer accused the PM of “sloganising” to win over voters but failing to set out detailed plans for what his promise actually meant.
And he criticised the Government for failing to “face the facts” and apply the political will needed to reduce regional inequalities across the country.
The new Levelling up minister, Michael Gove, fell flat after he tried to put meat on the bones of the slogan in his keynote speech at Tory conference in Manchester today.
Lord Heseltine, who was Margaret Thatcher’s deputy, slammed the speech: “It’s very easy to keep sloganising, but they’ve been doing that for nearly two years and they have wasted that period of their power with a large majority.
“No one listening to his speech who is interested in the subject of levelling up is any wiser than they were before the speech.”
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
The Tory peer, who led major regeneration projects in London Docklands and Liverpool while in power, accused Mr Johnson of lacking the political will to make the necessary change.
“The sad truth is that the Government is surrounded by advisers who have lived through these issues, who know the arguments backwards,” he told Sky News.
“What is missing is the political will to take difficult decisions. It is that decision making on which that levelling up agenda can be put underway.”
He added: “The truth is that we know how to level up, we know how to improve the conditions in deprived areas, we’ve done it conspicuously in many parts of the country.
“But this Government simply doesn’t face the facts about how it needs to be done and the single minded purpose that has got to be applied to it.”
Mr Gove is due to publish a white paper on the Government’s levelling up plans in the next few weeks – and Lord Heseltine suggested it could be why he had held back on setting out detail in his speech.
Lord Heseltine said the key to reducing regional inequalities would be to give more power to local decision makers.
The Government had failed to offer a “strategic assessment” on what needed to be done and had resorted to pumping out “well-sounding phrases” which could have been used at any stage by any government over his political career.
“You’ve got to take difficult decisions and they are urgent and they mean putting people in charge who are elected locally,” he added.
During the development of the London Docklands in the 1980s, for every £1 of public money spent another £10 of private funding was invested.
“Even in Liverpool, in the darkest days, for every pound of public money, we got £1.50 of private money.”
In his speech, Mr Gove told delegates that levelling up means helping everyone “live their best life” as he joked about his exploits in an Aberdeen nightclub.
The Communities Secretary was caught on camera throwing shapes on the dance-floor during a summer visit to the Pipe club.
With Abba’s Dancing Queen played in the auditorium before he arrived on stage, Mr Gove opened by saying: “Here we are – bright lights, great atmosphere, enthusiastic young people.
“It reminds me of my last night out on the town in Aberdeen – dance like nobody’s watching they say. “Well I did, but they were watching.”
Mr Gove said that he had a four-point plan for levelling up – but that every Government department had to play their part.
He said: “We want to strengthen local leadership – great mayors like Andy Street, driving real change.
“We also want to raise living standards, especially where they are lower. We want to improve public services, especially where they are weaker.
“And we also want to give people the resources necessary to enhance the sense of pride in the place they live.”