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Since Brexit got, well, sort of done, and the pandemic has hopefully now finished rampaging across the nation swinging an enormous wrecking ball through domestic policy and leaving ugly red scars of debt and a thoroughly shaken up jobs market in its wake, the next big Tory offer of levelling up, must now survey the debris and determine how on earth to use the detritus of the greatest government emergency spend since wartime to, here’s another one, build back better.
If you were playing conference bingo, levelling up, build back better and red wall would be fairly safe bets.
Having inherited a slew of disowned Old Labour voters, the so-called Left Behinds who had faced decades of wage compression while watching their once beloved communities slip through their fingers with the sands of time, Team Boris knows exactly what to say to continue to court the favour of this new tranche of support, vital to cling on to for future right wing hegemony.
Higher wages, lower cost of living, no more champagne socialism presiding over Woolworths becoming a Polski Sklep, better schools so their kids can go to better universities, home ownership, dignity in old age, social mobility and above all, respect.
No more idiot Brexiteers who didn’t know what they were voting for.
In terms of lip service, Boris and co are well placed. The lines were well rehearsed during the Brexit campaign and the greatest grassroots electoral upset in generations still crystallises support towards anybody who was not a traitor to the cause in those tumultuous post-referendum years.
And despite them coming from an Old Etonian who’s middle name is de Pfeffel, who splutters over common vernacular with a bumbling stutter as if his voice were only accustomed to oratory in Ancient Greek, have so far managed to keep the penny-pinched population peculiarly patient in a sort of post-plebiscite pause.
The pandemic got in the way of things, somewhat, but now is the new dawn. But Boris has a lot to do if he is going to maintain their approval and continue to sport their badge of honour and not be reduced to ‘he’s just like the other lot’, and so far, well, things aren’t looking too bright.
Petrol prices have shot up, universal credit top ups are being scrapped, all the schemes to keep the housing market afloat during the pandemic turned out to be cushty for those wanting leafy second homes in the countryside and developers but less so for cash-strapped renters, gas prices are soaring due to historic catastrophic lack of strategy in energy policy, National Insurance is being hiked to afford social care for pensioners, a quarter of whom live in million pound properties and half of HS2 is to be binned, leaving a huge chunk of the northern constituencies being massaged by the Tories with broken promises.
At least Sir Keir Starmer can’t figure out who has a vagina. In political terms, that has bought the Tories some serious time to get things right. But the winter will soon cast its hoary light on promises made in the summer, and if the Prime Minister doesn’t start putting money where his mouth is, the daily real life experiences of those above the fictional red wall will soon start to diverge enormously from the sunlit uplands that are supposed to be the Boris legacy.
It’s no surprise that today, Boris has waded in on the HGV driver shortage as an effort to create clean air between Government and the opposition benches, pointing out how big business needs to be weaned off the cheap foreign workers that the Labour Party would see trap the blue collar backbone in grubbing around for palsy pay for futurity.
But in the short term there will be a lot of scrabbling to keep beer fizzy, petrol pumping and pigs in blankets as the reality of headache-inducing sums in family balance books will see the realpolitik of home economics begin to crash down just as the days are getting colder and nights longer, and Christmas stockings beg to be filled.
It’s the big Boris Brexit Bonanza, but in the face of post pandemic head winds, plummeting social mobility and stagnant infrastructure investment for decades, can he deliver?
Today, we need to talk about Levelling Up.