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The writer is a former Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University.
The phrase “Leveling Up” suddenly took on a new urgency for the government, which specializes in the four syllable slogans “Get Brexit Done,” “Build Back Better,” and “Global Britain.” Boris Johnson, who left the EU and survived the pandemic, needs to change the notion of narrowing regional inequality to more than warm language and opportunism.
Two years ago, ministers told me that tackling the unequal productivity of the country was “the vitality of this government.” And it should be.Britain’s economy is more regionally imbalanced than any other wealthy country, And Covid-19 amplified fraud. But it’s not entirely clear what the government thinks it should do to revive Blackpool, or Scunthorpe. Those attending the Whitehall conference are desperate for the lack of imagination beyond centralized funding for bus routes and railroads, and what appears to be a pork barrel to prepare the boulevard. So much money can be wasted as everyone enthusiastically tries to guess Johnson. Congress pitches pet projects to raise money, and the government sector invents a “level-up” initiative to please number 10 without knowing what they’re trying to solve.
Unless someone knows, it’s unlikely that you’ll do anything meaningful in the next election. But finally, a formidable team was formed. Michael Gove, the only member of the 2010 Cabinet to remain in the top post, was appointed to lead the renamed Level Up and Housing sector. Some saw his move from the Cabinet Office as demoted. In fact, Boris Johnson put the fate of his election in the hands of the man who defeated his 2016 leadership bid.
Goves are Johnson’s greatest hope for understanding this vast agenda. He is an experienced reformer and by far the most effective minister in the cabinet, tackling the issues of intellectual analysis and cheerful claims of face-to-face vested interests. Three successive prime ministers have realized that he is essential — even Theresa May, whose hatred for him was matched only by his hatred for her. He is keen on fighting the forces of inertia and has the assumption that the work of all ministers could be his last — only 77 days after he took office as Secretary of Education in 2010. He later acquired the Education Reform Act through Congress — and his policies have endured. He has made many enemies, especially in the teaching profession, but civil servants, including the Treasury, and former aides scattered around No. 10 and the Cabinet Office also have many quiet fans.
Gove didn’t waste time. His new team includes Congressman Neil O’Brien, a former aide to George Osborne, and Andy, a former Bank of England economist and labor market expert who criticized the government’s over-reliance on infrastructure. Includes Haldane, Congressman Danny Kruger. Those who believe that family and community are as important to life opportunities as bricks and mortar.
All four share the belief that Whitehall is overly centralized. This was part of the agenda behind the creation of the Policy Exchange think tank, in which Michael Gove was the first chairman and Neil O’Brien was the second director (I was sitting on the board). .. This is important because the Whitehall desk cannot provide a true level-up. Johnson will have to balance the need to delegate more power to the mayor and Congress, reluctant to give up the ground to the left. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the government giving some parliaments full control over business fees and more authority over health and care, for example. But it should also empower religious groups, charities, and social enterprises that directly see crime, despair, and struggle.
The real level up is about people, not places. The language of the current location (North vs. South) risks alienating southern voters who fear that their money is being poured into white elephants elsewhere. And it overlooks the fact that the disadvantages are not limited to the red wall and are not ubiquitous in it. You can also spend money on infrastructure and skills without a lasting impact. In the late 90’s, Tony Blair’s community-based New Deal spent around £ 2.5 billion in similar parts of the country with some success. However, it has little lasting impact on prosperity, health and education.
The missing element could be the “social capital” that Professor Robert Putnam of Harvard University made famous in his book “Bowling Alone.” “Economic data so far can only take us in understanding regional disparities,” Halden said two years ago. With a speech in Newcastle.. “Social data and social narratives are also important.” When Halden defined it as “left behind,” it turned out to be much more correlated with Brexit’s vote, as it included few parks, playgrounds, and football clubs, as well as low returns.
Health is also important. Today, a boy born in Richmond Apontems in southern England can expect a life expectancy of 18 years longer than a boy born in Blackpool in the north. There is also a life expectancy gap of eight years in wealthy and underprivileged areas such as York. There is an epidemic of chronic illnesses associated with poor housing, poor eating habits and unstable work. Economists believe that recovery in growth will improve health, but they also need continuous medical support.
Can Gove and Johnson pull it off? You need more than a bus route or a hanging basket. But the prime minister knows that. And the stakes are high. If “level up” remains favorable, the four-syllable phrase can quickly be replaced by a four-letter word.
Gove must be aware that true leveling up is about people, not places.
Source link Gove must be aware that true leveling up is about people, not places.