The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, has said there is “a lot to do” to demonstrate the government’s commitment to delivering on the flagship policy of tackling regional inequality.
Ahead of his statement on the long-awaited Levelling Up white paper in the House of Commons this afternoon, Gove recalled the note left by ex-Labour treasury minister Liam Byrne to his successor in 2010 that read: “I’m afraid there is no money”.
He affirmed that “difficult economic decisions” were required under the former prime minister David Cameron’s tenure, as many point toward the twelve years of Conservative leadership as a factor in regional economic disparities.
“Boris Johnson was elected in 2019 as the leader of a new government determined to change that economic model,” Gove explained, appearing to mark the Brexit referendum and its consequences as a turning point for the Conservatives’ economic agenda.
“We had two years of Covid when we were preparing our proposals for levelling, and indeed laying the groundwork with our Levelling Up Fund and other transfusions of cash to the frontline. And now we’re laying out the plan for 2030,” he went on.
However, Gove seemed to confirm reports that the Treasury did not OK all his desired policies ahead of the white paper.
He claimed that October’s Spending Review saw money “put in departmental bank accounts” by Chancellor Rishi Sunak which was currently being disseminated to local leaderships.
“I did ask the Chancellor for a lot. And he gave it to me, that was what was happening in the Spending Review,” he remarked when quizzed over whether Mr Sunak denied some of Gove’s requests.
“In this life we never get everything we want, but in the words of Mick Jagger ‘you might not always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need’.”
Moving on to discuss the Ukraine crisis following Boris Johnson’s talks with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Gove claimed it was a “badge of pride” that [Russian television is attacking our Prime Minister”, after Russian state media have attempted to brand to the ongoing ‘Partygate’ scandal as evidence of Britain’s incompetent governance.
“One of the reasons that Russian television is attacking the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister is leading the West’s efforts in order to ensure that we defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Putin,” he argued.
“I don’t think you necessarily need to dial Vladimir Putin on his mobile phone for him to get the message that he should back off,” Gove explained in response to questions over Mr Johnson’s decision to scrap his scheduled Monday call with Russian president Vladimir Putin to instead address the Commons on Sue Gray’s update.
Gove even went on to claim that some elements of the ‘Partygate’ allegations are “speculation and not true”.
He also told Sky News that it was a “hypothetical question” when asked if Boris Johnson ought to resign if it were concluded that he misled parliament over the issue.