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Why the north-south divide will only get wider under Boris Johnson

The present gang in Downing Street may wish to level things up economically and socially for their friends in the north, but, as Andy Burnham discovered, in terms of political power they are determined to try to level them firmly down. Sean O’Grady explains

Saturday 24 October 2020 19:24 BST
The prime minister on a visit to County Durham following the Conservatives’ election win in December 2019
The prime minister on a visit to County Durham following the Conservatives’ election win in December 2019 (Getty)

Last December, after a remarkable win in an extraordinary general election, Boris Johnson travelled to Sedgefield in County Durham. A former mining area, it was a symbolic location, long a safe Labour seat that Tony Blair once represented with a majority of 25,000, or 53 per cent of the vote. His successor, Phil Wilson was defeated by a Tory, Paul Howell on a 13 per cent swing for a Conservative majority of 4,500. It had been held by Labour since 1935. It was one of many such seats in the broad north and parts of the Midlands that made a historic switch, responding to Brexit and the pledge to “level up” left-behind towns. The red wall had famously turned blue.

Johnson declared: “I want to thank all the people of those incredible constituencies. I want to thank all of you for the trust you have placed in the Conservative Party and in me, and I know how difficult it was to make that decision. I want the people of the northeast to know that we in the Conservative Party, and I, will repay your trust. Everything I do as your prime minister will be devoted to repaying that trust.”

Boris Johnson toasts the newly elected MP for Sedgefield, Paul Howell, after the Conservatives’ election victory in December 2019 (Getty)

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