THERE was one obvious omission when Boris Johnson’s new-look Cabinet convened in 10 Downing Street after Thursday’s reshuffle – the Northern Powerhouse Minister.
The first Tory leadership contender to back calls for the North to have its own voice at the top table of British politics, Mr Johnson has now ditched the role at the earliest opportunity.
And whilst this is no reflection on Jake Berry who grew in stature as Northern Powerhouse Minister, it does reflect badly on the judgment of the PM and his chief aide Dominic Cummings.
Even though Richmond MP Rishi Sunak became Chancellor, and in control of the nation’s finances if 10 Downing Street permits, the remaining changes appear to weaken the North’s influence and betray the Power Up The North campaign launched by 40 newspapers, including The Yorkshire Post.
The original objective – and Mr Johnson agreed to this – was for the North to have a full-time Cabinet-level minister, enjoying the same status as the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Secretaries, to represent the 15 million people who live and work here.
And as Mr Berry demonstrated on his joint visit to Yorkshire with Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, he was making a difference with his passion for the region.
The regret is that there were not monthly Northern Powerhouse questions in the Commons and a select committee to scrutinise officials – these would have given the role ‘senior’ status and made it harder for Mr Johnson to ditch on a whim.
And while Mr Shapps was also given the Northern Powerhouse brief last night in addition to his transport remit, with Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick – and his deputy Simon Clarke – driving forward devolution, their remits are national ones.
As such, this newspaper, for one, will be looking for early evidence that Mr Johnson is still fully committed to ‘levelling up’ the country and not taking ‘red wall’ voters for granted so soon after the election.