Boris Johnson offers ‘skeleton’ of levelling up plans with devolution idea

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oris Johnson has conceded he offered the “skeleton” of plans to level up the nation when he proposed greater regional devolution in a speech billed as a major bid to define his vision for the UK.

The Prime Minister suggested county leaders could possibly get fresh powers and reiterated plans for investment on infrastructure, education and regeneration, but offered few new details for his great ambition.

But he promised that boosting the North will not be to the detriment of the South, as he tries to keep traditional Tory voters onside while courting former Labour supporters in the North and Midlands.

One new proposal in the speech at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry on Thursday was to “rewrite the rule book” to take a “more flexible approach to devolution” in England.

We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties

He said local leaders in towns should be “given the tools to make things happen for their communities”.

“To do that we must take a more flexible approach to devolution in England,” Mr Johnson said.

“We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties and there is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we’ve devolved to city leaders.”

But he cautioned “we must get the right local leadership” so there cannot be a “one size fits all template”, as he criticised the “looney left”.

“One possibility is a directly elected mayor for individual counties. And if you can think of a better title than mayor for somebody who represents a county then please send me an email,” he added.

The Tories lost the previous safe seat of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats in a by-election last month (Yui Mok/PA) / PA Wire

In a press conference during which he was challenged on allegations that his past remarks have given a green light for online racism, he was asked where his clear strategy for levelling up is.

“I am respectfully going to urge you to just go back over some of what I said because I do think that in all fairness there was at least the skeleton of what to do,” Mr Johnson responded.

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