THIS should be the week when Boris Johnson is providing absolute clarity on his plans to turbo-charge the Northern Powerhouse after giving his backing to the agenda-setting Power Up The North campaign that The Yorkshire Post – and more than 30 newspapers – launched ahead of the Tory leadership contest.
The very fact that Mr Johnson’s first party conference, as Conservative leader, is taking place in Manchester would – in normal circumstances – be the perfect platform to rebalance the economy for the benefit of the 15 million people who live and work here in the North.
Regrettably, this agenda-setting opportunity is now totally overshadowed by the growing political crisis and mounting misgivings about the current Government’s actual ability to function.
For this, Mr Johnson only has himself to blame as the ongoing row about his insensitive and inappropriate language towards female MPs from West Yorkshire – and also inquiries into the nature of his relationship with an ex-model when Mayor of London – are compounded by the manner of his announcement into the funding of hospital improvements.
Though it is welcome to see Leeds General Infirmary towards the front of the funding queue, the country will not be receiving 40 ‘new’ hospitals – the message that Mr Johnson sought to promote. Just six are new. As Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded, the rest involve the “rebuilding” of existing hospitals – including Hillingdon Hospital which serves the PM’s marginal Uxbridge constituency.
And the fact that Mr Hancock described the £13bn plan as “seed funding” gave further credence to the view that this is a pre-election ruse which will widen, still further, the mistrust between the public and their political leaders at the very time when Mr Johnson should be using his office to unite the county at every opportunity.