James Forsyth

The Tories have a new-found love for devolution

Michael Gove sees mayors as the key to levelling up

The Tories have a new-found love for devolution
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One of the big draws of this conference is Ben Houchen, the Tory Mayor of Tees Valley. His presence ensures a big audience at any fringe event. Michael Gove heaped praise on him in his speech. He argued that Teesside was where you could see what the Tories mean by levelling up in action.

Interestingly, Gove’s praise for Houchen seems to presage a greater Tory shift towards devolution. Gove said that levelling up meant four things, the first of which was strengthening local leadership to deliver ‘real change’.

This aspect of the agenda is one of the reasons for the Andy Burnham–Michael Gove bromance. Burnham, who is about to speak at a fringe event here, can see opportunities here to gain more powers for his mayoralty.

What is certainly true is that those places in England that have the most vigour about them, that are doing best at making themselves attractive to investors, tend to have mayors. Mayors can not only knock heads together to get things done but can also market a city or region on both the national and international stage. More mayors with more powers would be a simple way to boost the levelling up agenda.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is political editor of The Spectator.

Topics in this articlePolitics