Levelling up: How can Britain’s inequalities be fixed?

In association with BAE Systems


Last year, the government finally defined its levelling-up plan with a White Paper, a massive document of more than 300 pages. It featured 12 quantifiable ‘missions’ in areas such as health and education outcomes, housing, life expectancy, transport and skills.

Today, it’s clear that those left behind are central to Britain’s political landscape: first they voted for Brexit in 2016; then they switched to the Tories in 2019, delivering Boris Johnson a thumping majority.

The government has shown that it’s serious about keeping these voters onside. There is now a statutory requirement to report annually on progress towards the targets, allowing voters to monitor and hold accountable this administration — and any future one. The government has, in other words, put its own feet to the fire.

Much needs to be done, though, if these 12 aims are to be achieved. As Professor Vernon Bogdanor writes, the difference in skills and education quality across the country couldn’t be starker. The buzzword of ‘levelling up’ has parked the Tories’ tanks on Labour’s lawn — and Katy Balls explores the fall-out. The Spectator’s chairman Andrew Neil interviews the Permanent Secretary for Levelling Up, Andy Haldane. And James Kirkup examines the differences in life expectancy and obesity in different parts of the UK.

I hope you enjoy the supplement.

Ben Lazarus, Editor

Illustrations: Natasha Lawson and iStock

Education must be at the heart of the levelling-up agenda

Talent, Boris Johnson has said, is equally distributed across the country, but opportunity is not. If you live in St Albans, you are nearly three times more likely to have a degree than if you live in Barrow-in-Furness. If you’re male and live in Westminster, your life expectancy is ten years higher than a bloke

Levelling up at home will support Global Britain abroad

The notion of levelling up appeals to our sense of fairness and is a mission everyone can applaud. The government’s excellent White Paper and the wide-ranging programme of Bills announced in the Queen’s Speech are substantial developments which business can get behind. Clearly, levelling up requires government and business to work together. Companies that have

Katy Balls

The next battleground: why levelling up is key to the next election

The levelling up agenda didn’t start with the 2019 election campaign. Instead, it began in 2016 with the Vote Leave slogan, ‘Take back control’. This was the point at which Labour frontbenchers started to grow concerned that the Conservatives were parking their tanks on Labour’s lawn. ‘It suggested that we are on your side –

Advertising feature: BAE Systems: Building a better Britain

At BAE Systems we help defend the nation by protecting and serving those who protect and serve us. We do this by being performance-driven and values-led. Our focus on performance means that as a successful business, we are able to make a significant contribution to the economies and societies in which we operate. An independent

James Kirkup

The scandal of Britain’s health inequalities

Take a train from London King’s Cross to Newcastle and your journey will span 245 miles and several years of a child’s life. According to the most recent estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a baby boy born in the north-east of England in 2020 is likely to enjoy just 59.1 years of

Levelling up by numbers

Some 42% of the public understood what levelling up meant. But this varied in different nations, with people in Wales and Scotland reporting the lowest understanding: 31% and 29% respectively. Amazon estimates that some 11.6m Britons require digital skills training to bring them up to speed Education The think tank ResPublica has some useful background

Business is key to levelling up

For the government’s levelling up mission to succeed, the voices of businesses must be heard and understood. Of course public service investment and devolutionary change are essential to the levelling up project, too. But in every community, it is business leaders who will be making some of the most significant and visible contributions. For they