'Hollow' levelling-up promises

Unite slams prime minister Boris Johnson’s latest speech on ‘levelling up’ the country

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Unite has slammed prime minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Thursday (July 15) in Coventry on ‘levelling up the country’, saying his pledges rang hollow when he has refused to help both struggling families and industries across the country amid the pandemic.

Johnson’s speech was described by Labour as ‘gibberish nonsense’, with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner highlighting how the prime minister “does not do detail; he does soundbites”.

“It is all jam tomorrow and a load of baloney. What he pretends and what he says he is going to do, is not what happens in reality,” she added.

In his speech, Johnson said “levelling up is not a jam-spreading operation. It’s not robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s not zero-sum. It’s win-win”.

He added that so-called ‘levelling up’ in certain regions would not come at the expense of making already wealthy regions poorer, noting, “We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies.”

The speech touched on a wide range of issues including tackling crime, building more football pitches and building more railway lines, but no one issue was supported with explicit policies. Johnson also pledged to expand devolution and suggested that county leaders may get more powers.

Johnson’s ‘levelling up’ agenda was included in the 2019 Tory manifesto and has become an-oft repeated mantra throughout his tenure as prime minister. This agenda is understood to include more investment in infrastructure and businesses in more deprived regions in the UK. The government has said it will outline specific details for its ‘levelling up’ plans in September.

When asked after his speech if he had any strategy for the agenda, Johnson responded,  “I am respectfully going to urge you to just go back over some of what I said because I do think that in all fairness there was at least the skeleton of what to do.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner slammed the prime minister for yet again making vague promises to bring prosperity to regions suffering from systemic inequalities when the government has to date done the exact opposite.  

“We won’t be taking sermons on the mysteries of inequalities from a prime minister that has sanctioned the snatch back of £20 per week from millions of the lowest paid workers, who are on Universal Credit because work doesn’t pay in this country, and is poised to deny two million poor pensioners the income they need to get by,” Turner said.

“This government’s levelling up promises ring hollow too when it refuses to play an active role in saving and creating decent work in this country,” he added. “Over 500 jobs at GKN, for example, hang by a thread because the Johnson government refuses to be positive partner in the economy.  Sitting on the sidelines while our competitors get on with investment in green manufacturing means the UK is missing out on the chance to bring stable, good work back to our heartlands.”

By Hajera Blagg

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