The North should have greater control over its destiny, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, as he backed the Power Up The North Campaign and championed greater devolution from Whitehall.
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post during a visit to the region, the former Conservative leadership hopeful agreed that “far better” infrastructure and transport links are needed in the North and that talented people should not feel that they have to gravitate towards London.
The Minister rued “growing divisions” in society, including a disconnect between government and rural voters, as he conceded that the North-South divide was “a very real thing” that needed far greater efforts to remedy effectively.
A new era of regional investment is a key demand of the Power Up The North campaign, instigated last month by The Yorkshire Post alongside more than 30 other newspapers, political, business, civic and religious leaders.
Mr Gove said: “I’m a huge fan of the Power Up The North campaign, I’m a huge fan of the principle of greater devolution - I think you need to look at each individual project on its merit but absolutely. I also think we do need to have far better infrastructure and transport links in the North.”
He heralded what he described as a “renaissance” in Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and Newcastle in particular over the last few years but said more must be done to make sure the potential of those cities and surrounding areas is properly fulfilled.
“I think it is wrong that you should have an economic model which says that the most successful and talented people should gravitate towards London and the capital,” Mr Gove said.
“Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool are all amazing places to live and it’s also the case that we should be concentrating on the fact that all of those cities have outstanding universities and so much to offer.
“Beyond that you have other communities from Burnley to Hull that also require investment because they have got potential for the future and one of the ways we can make sure they are fired up is by both giving local people more control of their destiny and also making sure there is proper investment in those areas.”
Mr Gove said he believed Britain had suffered from “a very metropolitan outlook” during the Labour years - 1997 to 2010 - that meant the distance between rural and urban Britain had grown.