Northern leaders 'must make their cases' for levelling up backing, says Tory election guru Lynton Crosby

Northern politicians and businesses must “make the case” to the Government to seize the opportunities of levelling up, Conservative Party election guru Sir Lynton Crosby has said.

Political strategist Lynton Crosby has launched a new consultancy business based in Leeds and Manchester. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post as his political consultancy C|T Group announced it was setting up a new northern operation based in Leeds and Manchester, Sir Lynton said Prime Minister Boris Johnson is “absolutely determined to bring about what has been termed levelling up” – but said it should not solely be down to Government to deliver it.

He said: “Levelling up really is an affirmation that wherever you live in the UK you should have the opportunity to have a good life, access to good infrastructure and the opportunity to have a job. You shouldn’t have to go to the big cities or down to London to get a better future.

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“You can attach political phrases and slogans to these things but it is a fundamental principle - wherever you live in this country it is only fair that you have access to the services and opportunities that people in other parts of the country have as well.

"The thing I know about the Prime Minister is he is absolutely committed to that goal. [But] to take ambition and turn it into practical implementation takes time and planning. That is the opportunity for the North in particular. Not to just say ‘They’ve promised this’ but to actually advocate, to get out there and make the case and say these are the things you can do for us.

“There’s been a lot of focus on high-speed rail but there are lots of things that if I was in local government or business in this part of the world that I would be making the case for the support I need in the context of this ambition.

“That is what they should be doing – the soil has been tilled, now is the chance for the seed to be sown. You can’t just say ‘They’ve promised it, now they have to deliver’ – you’ve got to get out and make the case.

“It is not just about putting your hand out. If I was a logistics business for example, I would be going to the Government to make the case for support to expand in this part of the world because it aligns with the Government’s objectives and priorities.

“It is about thinking creatively as a business or a community to demonstrate how issues you have got and ideas you have meet with the Government’s ambition so you have that alignment of interest.”

His comments follow similar remarks made by Mr Johnson in July, when he asked local leaders to come to him “with your vision for how you will level up, back business, attract more good jobs and improve your local services”.

In a speech on his levelling up ambitions in July, Mr Johnson said: “Come to us with a plan for strong accountable leadership and we will give you the tools to change your area for the better, and it can be done, because there is no intrinsic reason why one part of this country should be fated to decline or indeed fated to succeed.

“The towns and cities that people say have been left behind have not lacked for human ingenuity, they have not been short of people with courage or intelligence or imagination and there is no place in this country that does not have something special, something about their scenery or culture or history, some selling point unlike anywhere else in the world and they don’t think that they are left behind and they are right."

Sir Lynton is an influential figure in Conservative circles, having worked on multiple Tory Party election campaigns and with Boris Johnson when he was running for London Mayor. He said that Northern leaders have a unique opportunity as a result of the levelling up agenda – and that is in part why his company is setting up a new operation in the North.

“We have launched a new business called C|T Local North which is a regionally-based business focused on property infrastructure and development and related activities.

“It is designed to take advantage in the growing interest in the part of the UK that exists beyond London to bring the skill and experience we have of understanding decision makers in London and Westminster with the need to ensure that all parts of the UK have their voices heard and get access to the best possible advice as to how their ambitions can be fulfilled.

“The type of customer we have is generally someone who has a potentially complex or more difficult challenge where one simple solution like putting out a press release or talking to a politician is not sufficient to deal with those challenges that they face.

"Those sorts of clients can be in the infrastructure space, they can be property developers, they could be family offices that are looking at a particular commercial investment. It could be local authorities that want assistance in helping their case more effectively advocated in Westminster, it is all of those things. Essentially anyone who has a complex problem in the planning, infrastructure, property space that need to do more than put out a press release or gather a town hall meeting."

He added: “If you are operating in this part of the world, the paradigm has changed because there is a much broader acceptance of the world beyond Westminster.

“That is a good thing because there is an environment in which your voice has a better chance of being heard.

“It is a great opportunity now to launch a business up here.”

He said part of his company’s approach is about creating “personally relevant” messages that resonate with decision-makers and gave the example of Mr Johnson.

“The Prime Minister is committed to the levelling-up agenda,” he said.

“What is personally relevant to him? Solutions that can help him show that he is meeting that target he has set for himself – that you can live in the North and have access to good education, healthcare, infrastructure, the opportunity to build a life and succeed here not have to put up with second best or go somewhere else.”

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