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Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The failure of levelling up

Boris Johnson's attempt to reinforce the red wall seats his party won in 2019 through a 'levelling up' agenda was always going to fail, simply because the people who matter in his party, people like Rishi Sunak, are more interested in keeping the Tory heartlands on side. There was never enough money to do both.

The extent to which this levelling up agenda has failed is starkly illustrated by this article in the Guardian, which reveals the findings of researchers at the thinktank, IPPR North that if the north of England were a country, it would be second bottom of a league table showing levels of investment in advanced economies.

They say that only Greece has lower levels of public and private investment in a ranking of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries:

Marcus Johns, the report’s author, said the research showed the UK was standing out internationally for all the wrong reasons.

“Of all the advanced economies around the world, ours is the most regionally divided and getting worse – the north is at the sharp end of these divides and that’s a barrier to prosperity. But what’s even more unacceptable is that our country is divided by design. It is the result of decisions.”

Researchers have calculated overall levels of public and private investment in all 38 OECD countries.

Ireland is ranked top followed by South Korea, Turkey and Estonia. The UK is a lowly 35 in the list followed by Costa Rica (36), Luxembourg (37) and the imagined country of the north of England (38). Greece, still recovering from a sovereign debt crisis and its aftermath, is bottom.

The report attempts to quantify the extent of inequalities in the UK. For example, it says productivity is about £7 lower an hour worked in the north than the rest of England. Hourly pay is £1.60 lower.

Boris Johnson's promises were empty after all. Who knew?
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