AS THE Government becomes paralysed by Brexit, the abrupt resignation of Jo Johnson as Rail Minister provides Theresa May with an unexpected opportunity to respond strategically to the North’s disquiet about her approach to domestic policy. She should take it.
For, while Mr Johnson stepped aside in order to demand a second referendum as opposed to the hard Brexit favoured by his elder brother Boris, people here simply want the trains to run on time and key public services to receive the political attention and investment that they require.
The problem is rail commuters feel disenfranchised, powerless to hold train operators and politicians to account, at a time when Ministers are failing to recognise the Northern Powerhouse’s full potential while also becoming hostile to Yorkshire devolution.
This lack of attention explains, in part, why the Tories lost electoral ground in this region when Mrs May called her snap election last year – and it is why there is every likelihood that history will repeat itself here if the Government falls over Brexit.
Given Mr Johnson was also Minister for London in addition to his rail duties, Mrs May should have the foresight to appoint a politician from this region to this key transport role – Richmond MP Rishi Sunak is an obvious candidate – but they should also be given an enhanced Northern Powerhouse brief.
Not only would this end the monopoly of Ministers from southern seats at the Department for Transport, but it might assuage some of those who believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Tories have given up on the North.