Opinion: ‘Levelling up will apply to Peterborough’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

I’ve been in Manchester this week for the Conservative Party conference – my first since getting elected.

It was great to be back and catch up with people. But more importantly, it was great to be getting on with the job.

That general election put some really important responsibilities on me and this government. We got Brexit done pretty quickly. That was the first item on the list, left over from the miserable hung parliament.

It just left all the other things on our list to do.

We got Brexit done so we could unleash this country’s potential, tackling the things that matter and delivering for people who had been struggling.

The prime minister describes it as our mission to promote opportunity.

Levelling up.

Bringing about the high-skilled, high-wage economy that was shirked while it was easier to bring in overseas workers to do the same jobs for less.

What none of us expected was a pandemic. A once-in-a-lifetime crisis that engulfed the planet wasn’t in anyone’s political forecasts back in December 2019.

We got through it and our task now is to build back better. That’s what I found so encouraging in Manchester. Everyone had such enthusiasm and determination.

Yes, it’s not easy right now. Without being early with the vaccine, the UK might still be encumbered with restrictions.

The bumps in the supply chain as the world cranks up through its economic gears are an unfortunate fact of life.

But we will build back better – and crucially, build in more resilience. We are able to set our own path now. As Boris put it, “not only jettisoning the EU rules we don’t need any more, but using new freedoms to improve the way we regulate the great growth areas of the 21st century”.

I sat on several panels this week, had lots of meetings and even more conversations. The conference was buzzing. For once it was ideas that flowed most freely (although the bars didn’t seem to do too badly either).

Our city council leadership was in Manchester too, helping to ensure that Peterborough was part of these discussions. In fact, the prime minister’s speech was almost written for Peterborough.

Talent is distributed evenly, but opportunity is not.

That was his message. Levelling up will take the pressure off parts of the south east, while offering hope and opportunity to areas and people that have felt left behind.

Levelling up also means the opportunity to own your own home. “It’s been a scandal” Boris said, that “the dream of home ownership has receded”.

This government will turn the tide “by fixing the broken housing market, by plugging in the gigabit, by putting in decent, safe bus routes and all the other transport infrastructure, and investing in skills, skills, skills”.

“After decades of drift and dither”, we are “not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration”.

Instead, we are going “towards a high-wage, high-skilled, high-productivity and, yes, thereby a low-tax economy. That is what the people of this country need and deserve.”

Before I left Manchester, I heard Sky News say that after this week, we have a much better idea of what ‘build back better’ means. We do – and it’s coming here.