Boris Johnson says levelling up is 'moral mission' and 'economic imperative'

Boris Johnson has claimed that levelling up is a “moral mission” as well as an “economic imperative” that could help the UK become a bigger economy than Germany.

Calling for “geographical balance” and a “dispersion of wealth” , the Prime Minister’s comments come just days after he provoked anger in the north with the cancellation of the HS2 rail project from the Midlands through to Yorkshire.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) annual conference in South Shields, Mr Johnson said: “It is a moral mission and as you get older I find the funny thing is you get more idealistic and less cynical.”

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“It’s a moral thing but it’s also an economic imperative,” the Prime Minister went on.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking during the CBI annual conference, at the Port of Tyne, in South Shields (PA)

“Because if this country could achieve the same kind of geographical balance and dispersion of growth and wealth that you find in most of our most successful economic comparators, and if all our businesses could reach more balance in their levels of productivity, then there would be absolutely no stopping us and we would achieve – what I believe we can – and become the biggest and most successful economy in Europe.”

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Addressing the audience for around 20 minutes, the Prime Minister swung between a wide range of topics, as he made engine noises when he reflected on his time as a motoring correspondent, and told delegates about his trip to Peppa Pig World at the weekend, calling the theme park “my kind of place.”

Cars and the future of motoring featured heavily in the keynote, as Mr Johnson said that electrification will be the key to a green industrial revolution across the country.

“Lenin once said the communist revolution was Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country,” he said..

“The coming industrial revolution is green power plus electrification of the whole country. We are electrifying our cars, we are electrifying our rail.”

Responding to questions after the speech, Mr Johnson also appeared to criticise the response to last week’s Integrated Rail Plan which confirmed the scrapping of HS2 to Leeds and the scaling back of Northern Powerhouse Rail, claiming that some press coverage had “missed the point”.

The Government faced complaints from a number of its own MPs over the proposals, with calls from across the political spectrum for the decisions to be reconsidered.

“I must say that I thought, as a lesson in what happens when you tell the British people we’re investing £96 billion in the biggest railway programme for 100 years, some of the coverage was missing the point, let me put it that way,” Mr Johnson said.