From Gesture to Structure: A response the White Paper


The call to ‘Level Up’ was to the 2019 election what ‘Take Back Control’ was to the Brexit referendum. It was the Conservative rallying cry which ultimately played a major part in taking out the ‘red wall’ and winning them the election, and yet it has remained vague and ill-defined.

Nevertheless, unlike ‘Take Back Control’, levelling up has ultimately to be more than a slogan if the Conservatives are to hold on to their 2019 advances. From Redcar to Stoke, people will expect to see an upturn in the fortunes of their local communities in return for their votes or they may yet return to the Labour fold. Brexit is ‘done’ but even its most fervent supporters would struggle to argue that it is (yet?) delivering on the ground the type of changes these areas believed they were voting for.

For this reason, the Government’s current eggs are now firmly in the levelling up basket. Without much new money, by 2024 at the latest, Michael Gove et al will need to persuade voters the slogan has real meaning or potentially pay the price. The Levelling Up White Paper has, therefore, been eagerly awaited and should bear much more scrutiny than a more typical paper of this kind.

The paper’s narrative and direction of travel is strongly argued, but delivery requires a laser focus on structures and processes. What Gabriel has done in this anaylsis is to show what needs to happen next if the Government’s ‘missions’ are actually going to make a real difference to ordinary people.

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