The Labour grandee was also articulating this entire region’s growing realisation that the Northern Powerhouse and Levelling Up have become little more than glorified soundbites.
And unconvincing responses to a series of questions only strengthened all those who now question the sincerity of the Government’s past promises to ‘red wall’ voters.
Dame Diana’s original intervention came in the context of repeated delays to the electrification of the railway between Hull and Selby – a hold-up now exacerbated by growing uncertainty over the eastern leg of HS2. This prompted a ‘wait and see’ response from HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson before he chose to chide the record of the last Labour government.
Ominously, Mr Stephenson then declined to confirm that the eastern leg of HS2 will be built to Leeds in full: “This is a cross-government decision.”
And then Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg’s contempt when Dame Diana asked if he was happy with the North’s “clapped out, knackered” Pacer trains becoming makeshift classrooms – and whether they would be appropriate at Eton or Winchester where Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak went to school. “Reusing old trains can be an enjoyable thing to do,” he said with typical pomposity.
Really? It’s not just this region that is exasperated. Even Michael Heseltine, a former deputy prime minister steeped in these matters, says policy drift on devolution agenda is widening profound regional disparities still further.
Yet, just as Covid has accelerated the need for levelling up and empowering the North, Ministers are pressing the brake pedal instead. And it comes back to Dame Diana’s original question: Why?
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