Boris Johnson will pledge to tackle problems no government has had 'the guts' to take on before in headline Conservative Party conference speech

Boris Johnson will pledge to drive forward all parts of the UK economy and tackle the inequalities that “no government has had the guts to tackle before” when he sets forward his plan today to level up the country.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 10:30 pm
Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares his keynote speech in his hotel room in Manchester before addressing the Conservative Party Conference on Wednesday (PA)

In his headline conference speech, the Prime Minister will lay aside “decades of drift and dither” and lay out how his “transforming government” will embark on an “overdue” path which will help tackle glaring regional disparities.

Speaking in front of the Tory faithful in Manchester today, Mr Johnson is expected to say: “There is no reason why the inhabitants of one part of the country should be geographically fated to be poorer than others.

“Or why people should feel they have to move away from their loved ones, or communities to reach their potential.

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“Levelling up works for the whole country - and is the right and responsible policy.”

While the flagship levelling up promise has often been viewed as how it can support the north of England and Midlands, the Prime Minister will appeal to other parts of the nation when he sets out how the programme can also “take the pressure off parts of the overheating south east, while simultaneously offering hope and opportunity to those areas that have felt left behind.”

The appeal to the heavily populated and economically prosperous South East comes after the party lost the previous safe-seat of Chesham and Amersham in a by-election earlier this year, just 18 months after having taken swathes of Red Wall seats across the north that were previously thought to be unwinnable for the Conservatives.

“There are all kinds of improvements you can make to people’s lives without diminishing anyone else,” he will say. “and they are the tools of levelling up.

“If you want the idea in a nutshell it is that you will find talent, genius, flair, imagination, enthusiasm – all of them evenly distributed around this country – but opportunity is not, and it is our mission as conservatives to promote opportunity with every tool we have.”

The Prime Minister has heavily hinted that there could be an announcement on major northern infrastructure such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, following weeks of swirling speculation over the fate of the Eastern Leg of HS2 through Yorkshire.

He told Times Radio yesterday that there would be “quite a lot on Northern Powerhouse rail” at confernce, which ends today with little mention of the line having cropped up so far.

“It’s an enormous project, it’s the biggest ever investment in the railways,” he told the station, “and it will benefit areas that have not been levelled-up, that have not had attention for years.”

The Prime Minister broke one of his key election pledges not to raise taxes last month when he announced a hike to cover the spiralling NHS and social care budget, however, one

Yorkshire MP and party grandee has called on the Prime Minister to “seize the moment” by using his conference speech to show how Britain can exploit its post-Brexit “freedoms” and keep taxes low.

Former Cabinet minister and MP for Haltemprice and Howden David Davis said he is “not happy about the high taxes”.

Asked what he wants to hear from Mr Johnson on Wednesday, Mr Davis said: “I want to hear we’re going to have an economic strategy based on growth.

“We’ve got horrendous borrowings, like every other country. In a way the fact that everybody’s got it is a sort of… not an opportunity, but it means strategies to deal with it are not going to cause money to flood out the country, because where else is it going to go?”

Mr Davis went on: “We’ve still got to exploit Brexit and that’s how we do it.”

He added “lighter regulation, more purposeful regulation” should also be a feature, noting: “Those are the sorts of directions I want to see.”

Mr Davis added to Mr Johnson: “Seize the moment. He’s a great man for seizing the moment, that’s what I want to see from him.

“He always had a reputation before he was Prime Minister as a liberal Tory, he believes in freedom, and I want to see that.”