Michael Gove calls for 'red and blue' to come together to level up at conference in Liverpool
Elaine Willcox spoke to Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram.
Michael Gove called on "red and blue" to unite as he spoke to leaders in the North about Government plans for "levelling up".
The Levelling Up Secretary addressed politicians and business leaders at the Convention of the North conference in Liverpool on Tuesday. The politician was introduced by Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, who jokingly compared him to new Everton manager Frank Lampard as he welcomed the "true blue" to Merseyside.
Mr Gove spoke about plans to improve transport, digital connectivity, research and development, public health, urban regeneration and to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the North and Midlands.
He said: "We simply can't go on with the gulf between rich and poor, North and South, growing.
"It is not simply a matter of social justice, it is also a matter of economic efficiency.
"Inevitably in the course of however many years we take to meet that mission there will be arguments between left and right, between red and blue, but ultimately we are all on the same team and that is a team committed to making sure opportunity is more equal across the whole of our United Kingdom."
Mr Gove said the north of the country would be where "political action" was for the next nine years and beyond and vowed to empower regional political and business leaders.He said: "You cannot achieve positive change in all of these areas if you simply rely on a centre to direct investment, to intervene, to determine and to dictate."
He told the conference the Government had to act to tackle inequalities in different parts of the country.
He said: "If you leave the free play market forces entirely to themselves then what you see is inequality grow, in particular geographical inequality growing as well."
Asked if he recognised the role previous government cuts had played in some of the problems, Mr Gove said: "I can quite understand why communities which were already facing a tough time, facing a uniquely tough time during austerity, will be at best sceptical, at worst cynical about the Government's commitment to level up.
"All I would say is judge us on our actions in the future."
He added: "I entirely understand why people in Liverpool will require convincing that the Government is serious, it's part of my job to do that."
His speech came after a 330-page White Paper was published last week detailing plans to "level up" the country and narrow the vast regional disparities faced across the UK.
The plans included "missions" to be completed by 2030 to meet the "levelling up" aim promised as part of Boris Johnson's 2019 election campaign.
But the plans were criticised by some, including Mr Rotheram, who said: "If 'levelling up' was supposed to be the Prime Minister's defining mission then I am sorry to say that it is going to be mission impossible with this thin gruel on offer."