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Boris Johnson has put his fate in the hands of a former rival: Michael Gove

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Philip Collins (Daniel Hambury)

Philip Collins (Daniel Hambury)

In the attempt to grasp the decisive difference between the philosophical perspective of Workforce and Conservative partyI once wrote that no one has ever joined the Conservative Party to improve the lives of the poor. I quickly received a note from an outraged correspondent who simply said I had done so. This correspondent, this conservative warrior for social justice, was Michel gove and he is now the man in charge of his mission.

Mr. Gove won the consolation prize in Boris Johnsons reshuffle last week to become the minister on whom the government’s fortunes now rest. There is desperation in the appointment of Mr. Gove to the post of Minister of Leveling, Housing and Communities. To call the only cabinet minister with a political imagination is an admission that leveling remains an ill-defined project. Remember, Mr Gove is the man who thwarted Mr Johnson’s first attempt to become prime minister in 2016. It is quite a gamble for Mr.

There is also something depressing about the creation of an Upgrade Department. The names of departments should be subjects and disciplines, not government slogans. It would be like changing the Foreign Office to a Department for Global Britain or the Treasury to a Department for Build Back Better. Maybe we should call it the Leveling Up Department (LUD) and all Luddits ministers. That might give an idea of ​​the problem Mr. Gove has in hand.

Mr Gove called on the esteemed Andy Haldane, the former chief economist of the Bank of England, to provide the ideas. We must not doubt their commitment. But to doubt their capacity is another matter.

So far, leveling has been defined as minimally as possible as a channel of money to travel north from London. Earlier this year, the government announced a $ 4.8 billion leveling fund for regeneration and local transportation. It is a pork barrel policy rather than a real mission.

Mr Goves’ department currently runs a cities fund and a community renewal fund that have paid out $ 3.6 million to 45 cities, 40 of which, coincidentally, had Tory MPs. Anyone who has been to Richmond in North Yorkshire, one of the cities to benefit from it, might like to compare it to the most deprived areas of London. But Richmond just happens to be the constituency represented by the Chancellor.

True leveling, however, isn’t just about places, it’s about the people who live in the places. If Mr. Gove has the courage to set goals for educational attainment, college entry, life expectancy, morbidity, earnings, and progression, then we’ll know he’s serious. about improvement. It would be an attempt to change the lot of life, not just paint downtown. So far, the government seems to have no idea what leveling means beyond the desire to tarmac roads, build bridges and erect a hanging basket on Main Street. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but they don’t do much to make the nation equal. And that’s what Mr. Gove got involved in. He might as well describe his new post as Equality Minister.

If the government needs instructions on the difficulty of this, it should study the last administration which had the same objective. The 1998 New Deal for Communities and the National Neighborhood Renewal Strategy channeled $ 4 billion of public money into similar areas for similar reasons. Evidence from the Brexit campaign in which these countries categorically voted to leave the EU on the grounds that no one paid attention suggests it did not work.

It would be wrong to say that nothing has been done. Public buildings have been reconstructed and public spaces rejuvenated. But regional productivity has not changed much, and growth rates between regions have not changed much. Britain remains a nation heavily dependent on tax revenues from entrepreneurial capital.

The only great achievement of the Labor years was in the cities of Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and this was due, in large part, to smart local government. It is therefore counterproductive to see that the local government has been stripped of the new name given to Mr. Goves’ department. There is no reason to assume that an entire nation can be changed from one department to Whitehall, whatever its name.

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