Launched just six weeks ago, and strategically timed to coincide with the firing of the starting gun in the Tory leadership race, this appointment reaffirms Boris Johnson’s campaign commitments to attach greater importance to the role than Theresa May did.
And while Mr Berry is, regrettably, not a fully fledged member of the Cabinet for now, he does, nevertheless, have an unique chance to speak up for the North at the Government’s top table and make both himself and the role indispensable. After all, his intervention last month, when he spoke about the challenges persuading colleagues to advance the Northern Powerhouse agenda, strengthened the case for enhancing the job spec – even Mrs May became a convert in her last week in office.
Yet, as the make-up of the Cabinet is dissected, there is a greater Northern presence – not least with the appointment of the ambitious and able Rishi Sunak, William Hague’s successor as Richmond MP, as Treasury chief secretary.
Like Mr Berry’s post, it is a more junior role. But its importance cannot be under-estimated – Mr Sunak will, as Chancellor Sajid Javid’s deputy, be entrusted with the public finances and concluding the spending review.
And while he will have many competing priorities, it is, again, encouraging that such a strong advocate for the North holds such an important post. It was, after all, Mr Sunak told Parliament in November 2017 in a debate on transport under-investment: “The Northern Powerhouse is a wonderful phrase, but the people of northern England deserve more than a slogan; they need action.”
As such, these are appointments should be welcomed. They’re an early indication – after Mr Johnson told MPs that he is “a huge fan of Northern Powerhouse Rail” – that he intends to hit the ground running. But the new PM and his new Ministers should be left in no doubt – this newspaper, and the 15 million people who live and work in North, will always judge them by their deeds rather than their words.