Failure to ‘level up’ Britain would be ‘catastrophic’, Wes Streeting admits, as Starmer vows to resurrect Johnson policy

28 March 2024, 18:36 | Updated: 28 March 2024, 18:53

Starmer has vowed to resurrect Boris Johnson's 'Levelling Up' policy
Starmer has vowed to resurrect Boris Johnson's 'Levelling Up' policy. Picture: Getty/Alamy/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A failure to 'level up' Britain would be 'catastrophic' for the Labour Party, Wes Streeting has told LBC, after Keir Starmer vowed to resurrect Boris Johnson's key policy.

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Speaking to LBC's Andrew Marr, the shadow health secretary said: "We have already seen how catastrophic it's been for the Conservative Party.

"The fundamental problem for Rishi Sunak is that when he came in after Liz Truss' catastrophic leadership, he made five key pledges to the country and he hasn't delivered them.

"Ultimately, that is how the British people is going to judge him. For Labour, levelling up is a Labour end that can't be achieved through Conservative means."

Pressed by Andrew on how Labour will pay for the agenda, Streeting vowed that his party would to do so via a combination of investment reform, reworking how government spends money and private sector investment.

Earlier today, Sir Keir Starmer vowed to give regional authorities more powers under a Labour government, as he declared that "levelling up doesn't happen by magic".

Failure to level up Britain would be 'catastrophic' for Labour, Wes Streeting tells LBC

The Labour leader said that he wanted the new powers to be used to create wealth outside of London, the south-east and the major cities, in a revival of one of Boris Johnson's key pledges.

"Devolution is absolutely essential for taking on regional inequality," he said in a speech in Dudley launching Labour's local election campaign.

"Levelling up doesn't happen by magic, but the energy and drive must always come from the place itself," he said, promising a "full-fat approach to devolution".

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Sir Keir said that Labour would launch a new industrial strategy that would create 650,000 jobs to "relight the fires of renewal in communities" like Dudley.

Some of these would be in car factory "gigafactories" in the Midlands, "clean steel" in Sheffield, and ports to support the "offshore boom in the north".

Sir Keir said that only 10% of the money set aside for levelling up projects had been allocated so far, and promised to unlock more of it.

Keir Starmer vows to 'level up Britain'
Keir Starmer vows to 'level up Britain'. Picture: Getty

But he would not be drawn on new money for local authorities, claiming that there was no "magic money tree" with the Conservatives having "broken the economy".

He said: "I can't pretend that we can turn the taps on, pretend that damage hasn't been done to the economy, it has. The way out of that is to grow our economy".

He said that Conservatives had not done the "hard yards" on levelling up."It's about people with skin in the game and playing their full part, but alongside a national strategy that works.

"That is hard yards. And my frustration of the past 14 years, but particularly since 2019, is that in saying levelling up, the Government was tapping into something real that people yearned for, but they didn't have a viable plan.

"And they didn't do the hard yards. That's unforgivable."

Levelling Up was a key part of Boris Johnson's promise
Levelling Up was a key part of Boris Johnson's promise. Picture: Alamy

"And we intend to turn that around and make sure that we can make that connection real and change places across the Black Country."

Sir Keir said he hoped to have been launching a general election campaign for a May vote, but said Rishi Sunak of "bottled it".

"He wants one last drawn-out summer tour with his beloved helicopter," he said. "So we need to send him another message, show his party once again that their time is up, the dithering must stop, the date must be set.