While Mr Johnson did point out that a levelling up policy paper will be published later this year where further details should be forthcoming, one of the most significant parts of his speech was that in which he suggested new devolution deals for counties based on similar powers enjoyed by metro mayors.
But Mr Johnson strikingly said repeatedly that it would be down to local leaders to come to Government with suggestions as to how this work would in practice rather than the Government providing a framework itself.
This was caveated with a warning of the need for “accountability” over what he termed the “loony left”. He specifically cited Ken Livingstone, who in the 1980s ran the famously left-wing Greater London Council and was the first London mayor in the 2000s.
Those comments appear to suggest that the Government is prepared to provide levelling up funding and powers to local leaders who are politically acceptable to the Prime Minister, a position that may be realpolitik in action but hardly accords with the Prime Minister’s repeatedly stated desire to level up across the whole country and address very real regional inequalities in areas like education, transport infrastructure and life expectancy.
Much of his speech in Coventry was also focused on attempting to reassure traditional Conservative voters in the South that the levelling up agenda would not hurt wealthier areas.
This was Mr Johnson and his government’s flagship policy that, once and for all, would close the North-South divide. Yet, it seems, courage is lacking when it comes to delivering on the promise.