Levelling up ‘not a jam-spreading operation’, PM to say in pitch to South

B

oris Johnson will insist his levelling up agenda is “win win” and will not be a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as tries to keep traditional Tories in the South on side.

The Prime Minister is expected to use a major speech on Thursday to say the programme is not a “jam-spreading operation” that will make “rich” areas poorer in order to benefit the more deprived.

But, speaking in the West Midlands Mr Johnson will seek to criticise previous leaders for having invested too heavily in London and the South East.

We don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer

“It is vital to understand the difference between this project and levelling down,” Mr Johnson will say, according to an extract of the speech released by Downing Street.

“We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies. We don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer.”

Mr Johnson will also hope the promise not to take away from wealthier areas will keep traditional Tory voters onside after the recent loss in Chesham and Amersham by-election, which was a safe seat until taken by the Lib Dems last month.

He secured his place in No 10 by winning over traditional Labour voters to make massive gains for the Conservatives in the north of England and the Midlands.

Downing Street did not say whether he would make any specific policy announcements in the speech, but a levelling up policy paper is expected to be published in the autumn.

Labour described it as an “empty husk of a speech” and said the Prime Minister would be “pitching people and towns against each other”.

The Prime Minister will seek to define the levelling up programme, a key ambition for his premiership which has so far been dominated by the coronavirus response and has seen his Government battle a series of sleaze allegations.

The former London mayor is expected to blame previous governments for having focused too heavily on “turbo charging” areas where house prices are already “sky high”.

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