Top Tory mayor: We need to double down on levelling up or voters will REALLY punish us


The PM has been urged to deliver on his promise to level up (Image: Getty)

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Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Boris: take Levelling Up to the next level. It will deliver electoral dividends and is the right thing to do.” But he also suggested the Prime Minister had to repair his relationship with voters, in an apparent reference to fines issued by the Metropolitan Police following parties in Downing Street during lockdown.

Mr Street said: “When the bond of trust with the public is frayed, we must work hard to repair that and focus on delivering for the country.”

The West Midlands includes key marginal seats in Birmingham, Dudley and Walsall, and Mr Street’s narrow win over a Labour opponent in 2017 was seen as a massive coup for the Tories. It was followed by Conservative gains across the region in a general election later that year, with more gains in 2019. The Mayor won re-election last year.

Last week’s local elections saw the Conservative vote hold up in the Midlands and the North, although Tories suffered significant losses in the south and Scotland. Nationwide, Conservatives lost around 400 council seats.

The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, published in February, included promises to improve failing schools, revive decaying high streets and increase pay.

Writing for the Sunday Express {LINK TO OP ED}, Mr Street said: “Let’s double down on Levelling Up. Our relative electoral resilience in the West Midlands illustrates that this agenda has borne fruit.”


Failing schools need more cash (Image: Getty)

He added: “I encourage the Government to be bold and brave in their Levelling Up Bill to be unveiled in The Queen’s Speech. From transport to housing, skills to regeneration, we have already drawn in unprecedented investment. In terms of transport, we are working on new stations and rolling out zero emissions buses.”

There was a similar message from a former Downing Street adviser last night, as he urged the Prime Minister to focus on “bread and butter” issues such as crime and the economy to win the next election.

Will Tanner, who was Deputy Head of Policy during Theresa May’s Government, said the Prime Minister must avoid the temptation to focus on “culture war” topics which obsess Westminster but hold little interest for voters.

He said: “People care about how much money they have in their pockets, whether or not they feel safe walking the streets at night and unsustainable levels of immigration.”

And he said Boris Johnson needed to show he was making good on promises to “level up” the country.

“You can’t level up areas overnight. It’s a ten or 15 year mission. But they need to show that some progress has been made, and give people hope that there is more to come.”

He said culture war issues such as the privatisation of Channel 4 and debates around rights for transexual people, which have sparked fierce debate among some politicians, were unlikely to interest most voters.

The comments reflect polling commissioned by Onward, the think tank Mr Tanner now heads, which found dealing with the cost of living is far and away the issue of most concern to voters.

When asked what parties should focus on in order to win their vote, 59% picked dealing with the cost of living crisis as one of their three top concerns.

In second place was the state of the NHS, named as a top issue by 43% of voters, while 32% said the economy was a key issue for them.

Harry Byrne

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