Levelling up… the sacrificial Lamb?

Jim forecasts that we could see the end of meaningful devolution in the North following next week's crisis budget. He also comments on the American elections, and reports on parliamentary boundary changes and a possible left wing purge in the Labour Party.

Jim Hancock

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MARCHING DOWN AGAIN

Next Thursday’s Autumn Budget could signal the effective end of any pretence to level up the North. If so, it will produce huge cynicism about any future promises to deal with the regional inequalities that is responsible for our low productivity as a nation.

It seems very likely that regional spending will be buried as the Chancellor attempts to deal with the £60bn gap in the economy. Some have welcomed the return of Michael Gove to his Levelling Up brief, but even his political skills are unlikely to prevail over a Treasury which has always been sceptical about the devolution agenda. We must wait with trepidation to see if trailblazer deals for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands survive, while investment zones are almost certain to be scrapped.

The last few months have encapsulated all the problems that northern businesses and local authorities have in their dealings with central government in relation to regional investment. As recently as July the Johnson government were officially committed to levelling up, although there had been backtracking on rail investment.

Then Michael Gove was sacked as Levelling Up Secretary as the Johnson government collapsed. In came Liz Truss who promised to restore the full Northern Powerhouse Rail. She also launched the idea of Investment Zones. Councils scrambled to apply, even though many believe they merely displace jobs from elsewhere. Now Truss is gone, Investment Zones seems likely to be scrapped and Northern Powerhouse Rail has once again returned to the sidings.

After decades of stop start devolution, will business and town halls be prepared to believe any promises by any government ever again?

END OF TRUMP AND BIDEN?

Joe Biden managed to prevent a Republican wave in the mid term elections. He is a decent man, and we live in an age when, rightly, we should not exercise age discrimination. However, his obvious frailty and frequent gaffs suggest the Democrats need to urgently find a new champion for 2024.

This is particularly important as they may be up against the Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis. He had an impressive election victory whilst Donald Trump saw many of the candidates he endorsed, lose. His threat to reveal personal information about DeSantis is not only demeaning but shows fear of his biggest rival for the 2024 nomination.

Trump is due to launch his campaign next week. Let’s see if it happens.

ALL CHANGE

Only 13 existing parliamentary constituencies remain unchanged in the Northwest under revised plans by boundary chiefs for the next General Election.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s Preston North seat is scrapped and the current by election in Chester will be the last for a unified city. It will be split under these proposals.

I will return to this subject, but you only have until December 8th to make final representations.

LEFT WING PURGE?

Left wingers in the Labour Party claim a drive is on to remove supporters of Jeremy Corbyn before the next election. True or not Liverpool MP Ian Byrne is being challenged for the Labour nomination in his West Derby seat.

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