Last week’s Queen Speech made early reference of levelling up, in fact mentioning it more than crime. Levelling up was meant to show what Britain would be like once we had left the EU, empowering communities by reducing regional inequality. But as an influential report by Bloomberg also last week showed, things are generally going backwards. Using the Government’s own measures compared with London and the South East, the pay gap is growing, house affordability is down and public spending per head especially transport is falling.
On only two measures, take up of Universal Credit and life expectancy the gap is narrowing but only because the figures show London and the South East getting worse.
Strategically the government is in a fix as the local elections suggest. The Government’s approach has left some new voters feeling let down and many traditional voters feeling dismayed. Furthermore the Government’s tendency to double down on political rhetoric – red meat for red wall seats – risks uniting anti Tory voters both Blue and Red Wall seats – a theory soon to be tested in two byelections.
The long-term outlook may not offer much comfort with the Office for Budgetary Responsibility saying the UK economy will shrink by 4% over the next 15 years. Some areas like our Coast which has bucked the trend of seaside and coastal towns have improved through local effort and when improvement happens areas become more urban, diverse and liberal – the opposite of the Governments message. Having literally promised the world in 2019 the Government may have no one to blame but themselves.
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