From the party manifestos it’s clear that levelling up for Yorkshire has been binned - Andrew Vine

So now we know. Levelling-up is no more, quietly consigned to the bin by whoever wins the next election. All the promises of a fairer deal for Yorkshire and the rest of the north, all the hopes that decades of economic inequality would finally come to an end are over, dropped by the two main parties with nothing tailored to our region offered in their place.

That much is clear from the Conservative and Labour manifestos, which for all their keenness to set out rival visions for a prosperous future shared the same glaring omission of specific help for the north to close the divide with the much more affluent south.

It feels almost as if there is a tacit acknowledgement by both Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer that the whole concept of levelling-up is simply too much trouble, and probably too costly, just like HS2, once the key element of it.

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Sorry, but generalities about focussing on growth or formulating a new industrial strategy just don’t cut it in our part of the country.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves reads the Labour Party's manifesto during the launch event at Co-op HQ in Manchester. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA WireShadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves reads the Labour Party's manifesto during the launch event at Co-op HQ in Manchester. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves reads the Labour Party's manifesto during the launch event at Co-op HQ in Manchester. PIC: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Such policies are more likely to boost the already-thriving south-east even further while having limited impact on the many left-behind communities that all of us who live and work here know so well.

What was needed were specific proposals to close the north-south divide that has held our region back for generations, and we are simply not being offered them.

And from Labour in particular, on course for a comfortable victory unless every opinion poll for months has been spectacularly wrong, this is a serious failing.

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Who can forget how much political capital Sir Keir has made from the Government’s failings to follow through on its levelling-up pledges?

Nor should we forget that on his frequent visits to the north, Sir Keir has been at pains to point out how much he understands and sympathises with our need for greater investment.

Yet on the face of things, he isn’t going to provide it.

If there is a change of government, the problems of the north are not going to disappear any time soon.

Under Labour, as under the Conservatives, there will be the same pockets of deprivation, the same lack of opportunities for the young, the same poor rail and road networks, the same post-industrial decline and dearth of inward investment to create new jobs.

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We all know that levelling-up has been a dismal failure, nothing more than a good intention that morphed into broken promises and inaction, with first the axing of the HS2 line to Sheffield and Leeds and then the cancellation of the remaining northern leg feeling like the last rites being read over a doomed policy.

But a new government, of whatever political colour it turns out to be, offered a chance of a reset. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have chosen to seize that opportunity.

The Conservatives could have argued – with some justification – that Covid and the economic damage it wrought had torpedoed the policy, but if re-elected they would give it new impetus.

Labour could have further strengthened its credentials with northern voters by spelling out a commitment to right the Tories’ failure.

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That it has not done so points to our region needing to be braced for more of the same – warm words but not much in the way of new money.

Presumably, Labour will point to its three Yorkshire mayors – with quite possibly a fourth to join them next year when Hull and East Yorkshire have their first mayoral election – as spearheading our county’s interests.

Doubtless they will. All three are energetic advocates for their areas and they will be listened to with greater attention by Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves if she becomes Chancellor than they received from their Conservative counterparts.

But will those mayors be given additional resources to make a difference? There was no detail in Labour’s manifesto about dedicated funding to help the regions.

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And assuming that Sir Keir is Prime Minister on July 5, will his Cabinet appointments include a levelling-up secretary?

They ought to, because the problem of regional inequality remains as pressing now as when Boris Johnson made levelling up the economy one of his key pledges in 2019.

That promise was one of the factors that won him votes in Yorkshire and persuaded substantial numbers of traditional Labour supporters to back the Conservatives.

Disillusionment with what followed will certainly send many of those voters back into Labour’s embrace next month, but if the party is to command their continuing loyalty it must provide a fresh start for the places where they live and work.

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