LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn today condemns the Government’s approach to the Northern Powerhouse as a “cruel joke”.
The Opposition leader makes the claim in his response to the Power Up The North campaign that was launched by The Yorkshire Post – and more than 30 newspapers and websites – this week.
It is challenging Britain’s political leaders to commit to a package of policy measures to turbo-charge the North’s economy following decades of under-investment by successive governments.
Mr Corbyn’s policy prospectus, published today, also places added pressure on Boris Johnson, now the clear frontrunner to succeed Theresa May as Tory leader and Prime Minister, to reveal his own blueprint for the region.
So far the former Foreign Secretary has declined to do so – despite signalling his backing for Northern Powerhouse Rail, and a Metro system for Leeds, when he outlined the themes of his leadership bid on Wednesday.
As support for the Power Up The North continues to grow, the latest developments see:
* Tory grandee Michael Heseltine warn that prioritising the North on the national agenda was dependent on getting “the right ministers into the Prime * Minister’s job and the Treasury” – or there will not be “a ghost of a chance of doing what is necessary”;
* Outgoing Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller accuse the Government of being “directionless across every tier of leadership at national level”;
* Former Education Secretary Justine Greening warn that the ongoing Tory leadership contest “feels a million miles away from the communities and people across the country”;
* Cabinet minister Mel Stride, the Leader of the Commons, agree in principle to a Parliamentary debate on the Northern Powerhouse.
Mr Stride, who was only promoted to the Cabinet last month, said he was looking forward to the Government having an opportunity to defend its record. “We feel we have made a substantial commitment to the north of England,” he added.
Howvever Mr Corbyn cited the continuing presence of antiquated Pacer trains on this region’s railway network as proof that the Northern Powerhouse agenda – launched exactly five years ago – had failed.
“It’s no surprise then that so many people feel angry and ignored. Who can blame them? They have been robbed of their future by a years of damaging austerity and a chronic lack of investment,” he writes. “The Conservative promise to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ turned out to be a cruel joke. They didn’t devolve power. They devolved austerity that hit the North the hardest.”