Johnson ‘the Pep Guardiola of politics’ and will deliver levelling up – Gove

By Geraldine Scott
PA Archive

Tory figures against higher taxes and those who want to see more money spent on levelling up are a “nest of singing birds”, a Cabinet minister has suggested.

Michael Gove said those within the Conservative Party were in “full agreement” on the aims of the Government as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was warned voters “will punish” him at the ballot box if he does not deliver on levelling-up promises.

He said Mr Johnson was still delivering on those promises, dubbing him “the Pep Guardiola of politics”.

He told LBC: “We’re going to get on with the job, we’re going to deliver investment in communities that need it, we’re going to make sure that there are well-paying, dignified jobs in communities that have been neglected by the Labour Party in the past, we’re going to work with great Tory mayors like Ben Houchen to deliver them.”

Mr Gove said the PM was “the true blue champion, and even though we don’t necessarily win every match, he is an inspirational leader”.

But it comes amid unrest in Tory ranks about rising national insurance contributions.

Writing in The Times on Monday, Conservative metro mayor for Tees Valley Ben Houchen said: “People like to be proven right and those who voted Conservative for the first time in 2019 are looking for an excuse to do so again, but they will punish a government which makes them regret their choices.”

And he said: “Boris must make it his New Year’s resolution to redouble and refocus the Government’s work to level up the United Kingdom. This is the true cause of this government.”

But it comes after former Brexit minister Lord Frost resigned, in part due to concern over rising taxes.

Mr Gove said: “You should get David and Ben in together.”

He said: “I imagine they would be in full agreement, they would be a nest of singing birds.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There are choices that do need to be made. But, ultimately, we’ve made those choices.

Boris Johnson with Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor (Ian Forsyth/PA) (PA Archive)

“We’ve committed to the public spending required in order to generate economic growth, and as we will in due course get that economic growth, we will also in due course cut taxes.”

He added: “One of the things I think everyone, certainly everyone from the Conservative Party but I think, actually, most people in politics, would agree is if we can have every part of the United Kingdom operating as effectively economically as London and the South East currently do, that provides not just opportunity for more individuals, it also provides more for the Exchequer as well.”

And he said there is enough money to achieve the Government’s levelling-up ambitions.

He said: “Well, it is the case actually that we are… the amount of public spending already committed in the Spending Review is higher than any government has committed to public spending in history.

“And those budgets, both the budget in my department but also in the Department for Education, in DWP, in the Department of Health and so on, that budget is there to be used, deployed and allocated to support levelling up.”

He added: “My budget was increased, and increased significantly, in the Spending Review and it’s as a result of that that we’ll be able to devote additional expenditure.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said levelling up was “the thread that runs through the heart of our domestic policy”.

He said: “You’ve seen we’ve already taken measures, which the Chancellor set out, which allow for significant improvements across the country on things like the Integrated Rail Plan.

“And Michael Gove will be setting up further measures in the Levelling Up White Paper.”

He said the aim was to publish the White Paper this month.


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