Boris Johnson's Garden Bridge failure does not bode well for infrastructure in Yorkshire - Rachel Reeves

Will Boris Johnson deliver on all his promises? Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire
Will Boris Johnson deliver on all his promises? Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Everyone deserves a chance when they start a new job, especially when the job is that of Prime Minister with its critical impact on all of our futures.

Boris Johnson has been in Downing Street for 11 days and has already issued, with his typical arm-waving bluster, a long list of promises.

Boris Johnson was left hanging in mid-air after he got stuck on a zipwire at an Olympic event in 2012. Photo: Ben Kendall/PA Wire

Boris Johnson was left hanging in mid-air after he got stuck on a zipwire at an Olympic event in 2012. Photo: Ben Kendall/PA Wire

Quick off the blocks to try to win support in our region, he became the third Prime Minister in five years to promise a Northern Powerhouse.

On Brexit, Johnson said he will sort out his Government’s catastrophically poor handling of Brexit and get Britain out of the EU on October 31.

Yet, the Government was forced this week to put aside another £2.1bn to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. That money should be a down-payment on real investment in the North – not used for a no-deal Brexit that everyone from business to unions knows would be disastrous for jobs and investment.

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As I said before it is too early to judge Johnson as PM. However, he likes to talk up his track record as London Mayor and asks people to judge him on his time in that job.

Will the new PM address the North's transport needs?

Will the new PM address the North's transport needs?

His track record collapses under scrutiny. Johnson presided over a host of ill-judged, costly schemes that smacked more of personal vanity than anything else.

His doomed £100bn plan for an airport in the Thames Estuary and the £43m wasted on a pipe dream to build Garden Bridge across the Thames do not bode well for the infrastructure projects that we badly need in Yorkshire and The Humber.

Johnson might be best known by many for clowning around and getting stuck on a zip-wire promoting the 2012 Olympics – an event secured under a Labour Government, despite Johnson’s attempts to rewrite history.

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But he is smart or possibly cynical enough to realise he has to try to persuade a sceptical public in the North that he leads an administration that will finally do something for the region. That’s why one of his first acts was to outline his support for a faster rail route between Leeds and Manchester.

We’ve heard all this before from the Conservatives and I fear we face an interminable wait under his government for any signs of the urgently needed improvements to our rail network and its creaking rolling stock.

According to an analysis of the latest government spending on major infrastructure projects last year, spending per head in Yorkshire and the Humber was £47.65 per head compared to £599.08 in London, £134.73 in the South East and £178.35 in the North West.

That is not promising for Northern Powerhouse Rail which would transform connectivity right across the region from Liverpool to Hull, let alone the Tories’ reheated pledge to upgrade the link between Leeds and Manchester.

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It is not just our transport needs that the new PM must address. Johnson has an overwhelming in-tray facing him after years of neglect of the North by his predecessors.

The chaos caused by flooding in Yorkshire this week is a stark reminder that we are still waiting for Government to commit all the funds we need to protect Kirkstall in my constituency from a repeat of the terrible floods on Boxing Day 2015.

I hope the new PM will do better than his Cabinet colleague Liz Truss who refused to come to Leeds to visit the site by delivering on the flood defences we need to protect the city.

When it comes to the economy, Johnson has talked of unleashing the “productive power” of the North and lifting up “our forgotten towns and communities”.

He conveniently ignores the fact that it was his Government that shackled Yorkshire’s potential for growth by starving the region of investment. The people who have “forgotten” our communities are his Government.

If there is anything behind the rhetoric, we need to see Johnson’s government finally turn on the taps and start properly investing in our public services, our transport network and replace the 20,000 police who were among the many victims of their brutal austerity cuts.

The reality of those cuts today is that we have households struggling to make ends meet because of the botched roll-out of Universal Credit and spending cuts. An estimated 140,000 children in Yorkshire are potentially going hungry as more families are forced to rely on food banks.

To mark Yorkshire Day this week, Johnson praised our fantastic county and said he was “wholeheartedly looking forward to visiting soon”, while signalling his support to devolve more power from Whitehall to local elected representatives. I would be more than happy to show the PM around Leeds West and explain to him the challenges my constituents face on a daily basis.

He should expect some straight-talking from Yorkshire people who need more than some sunny BoJo “optimism” to solve their problems.

Johnson said he would meet the Brexit October 31 deadline “no ifs, no buts”, adding: “The buck stops with me.” It certainly does – and not just on Brexit. The PM has made plenty of other promises.

I will be reminding the PM of his words in the weeks and months ahead and push him for a far better deal for our region.

Rachel Reeves is Labour MP for Leeds West.