The Granada Debate: What does the Downing Street drama mean for the North West?

This episode of the Granada Debate sees our political correspondent Lise McNally joined by the Conservative MP for Bury North James Daly, and Labour MP Kim Johnson for Liverpool Riverside.

On this episode, the panel discuss what the Downing Street drama means for the North West, as well as whether Levelling Up could now be in danger.

Plus, as politicians prepare to pack up and head home for the summer recess - we ask - are we all headed for a summer of strikes, and can anything be done to get back on track

On the panel for July's edition of The Granada Debate:

  • James Daly, the Conservative MP for Bury North

  • Kim Johnson, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside

Credit: PA images

As the race for Number 10 ramps up - who should be the next Prime Minister?

With a new Conservative leader set to be announced in September - the race to number 10 is firmly underway.

But despite resigning, Boris Johnson remains in Number 10 until the new leader, something Conservative MP James Daly says he is 'content' with.

"That is the prime minister's decision and there is nothing we can do in respect of that.

"I won't be [voting against the party on no confidence], I will be voting, we have a team in place, a cabinet in place the government is carrying out our manifesto.

"I am just very interested to hear what the candidates are going to say."

But Kim Johnson says the caretaker prime minister is 'like a bad smell", and needs to leave.

'Boris does need to go, he doesn't need to stay like a lingering bad smell in Downing Street.

"He has been mired in controversy for nearly two and a half years, from Dominic Cummings, to the kitting out of his apartment, to the lies he told about Chris Pincher and the fall of the house of cards have led us to where we are now in terms of this leadership race.

"Boris is going and should go, and I think anybody that is going to replace him will be a match for Keir Starmer."

People in Manchester laid out their plans for what the new Tory leader should do for the North West when they are appointed.

But most of the population will not actually have a say in the contest - less than 200,000 Conservative Party Members will be able cast a vote.

And with Conservative party membership overwhelmingly in the south, less than a quarter of voters are from the North.

Where does the political drama in Downing Street leave us with levelling up?

It is the flagship agenda of Johnson's Conservative Government, and is credited with bringing in a huge wave of new support for the party in what was known as the red wall.

The web portal to allow communities to bid for round two of the Levelling Up fund opened on July 15. It was originally supposed to open on 31 May.

"The government hasn't fallen apart," James Daly says. "The process will be there. The towns throughout the north of England will have the opportunity to do that.

"I know there are many bids being prepared and I know the local authorities are preparing those and I hope they are as successful as we have been in Bury, by working together, Conservative and Labour to deliver millions upon millions of pounds for regeneration and Levelling Up."

But Kim Johnson says from her point of view, the government has been 'levelling down'.

She said: "Knowsley, the second poorest local authority in the country got no Levelling Up funding whatsoever, however Sajid Javid's constituency, one of the richest equated to £149 per person.

"That for me is not Levelling Up, and if we are going to address the mass inequalities we have in this country we need to be looking at decent jobs that pay well."

Greg Clark, the newly appointed Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: "I am determined to press full steam ahead with levelling up communities across the United Kingdom.

"The Levelling Up Fund can provide the investment needed to make a project that communities have been dreaming of for years a reality.

"So I’m delighted to open applications for the second round of the Levelling Up Fund and I’m looking forward to seeing proposals that will make a positive impact on people’s lives."

The Director of the Manchester based think tank IPPR North says the next few weeks and months risks seeing levelling up left in limbo.

Zoë Billingham the director of IPPR North, made a to-do list for the incoming Prime Minister:

Can anything be done to see off a summer of strikes?

Workers on our buses, tramlines, and airports have all been involved in disputes with their bosses over pay and working conditions.

Barristers have entered their third week of walkouts, post office workers staged a 24 hour strike, teachers are considering industrial action next term, and more disruption could be headed down the track on the region's railways, with ing he services almost ground to halt in June during the biggest walk out of rail workers in 30 years.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer came under criticism after he told his front benchers not to join a picket line.

"I think that was a bit mismanaged if I'm honest," Kim Johnson says. "Keir Starmer is the leader of the Labour Party, our party was born out of Trade Union movement, and as a trade unionist I was very proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with strikers.

"Negotiations have broken down and workers have had a real terms wage cut in the past 12 years as a result of austerity and an attack on the public sector workers.

"There's likely to be a summer of discontent."

James Daly said the government had not been too distracted to continue negotiations, adding he supporting talks to try and get people the "affordable pay rise people deserve".

"I think it was the ex-prime minister Tony Blair who said this, if the country can't afford the level of increases we are talking about what I would prefer to say is, at this stage let's get to this increase that we can afford, and then let's increase again.

"So when productivity goes up, when the economy, we're not going through some of the challenges, let's do that again.

"It's difficult sometimes because people are getting hit in their pocket... so one of the things I hope from the Conservative leadership debate that we are going to find ways through tax cuts and things like that, to put more money in people's pockets to physically get through the week."

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