Conservative Party Conference 2021: What does Boris Johnson's speech mean for the North East?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has addressed the Conservative Party Conference with a speech focusing on his government's plans to 'level up' the nation.

Mr Johnson referred to reducing regional inequality as the "greatest project that any government can embark on", calling the UK economy the "most imbalanced and lopsided of all the richer countries".

His speech made direct references to the North East and infrastructure projects in the region - but no major new policies were announced.

So, according to the speech, how does the government plan on delivering for people in the North East and North Yorkshire?


Students in our region receive some of the lowest A-level grades in the country - an education gap that has widened during the pandemic.

The percentage of A-level entries in 2021 awarded the top grades (A* or A) by each region:

  • North-east England 39.2%

  • North-west England 41.4%

  • Yorkshire & the Humber 41.1%

  • West Midlands 40.9%

  • East Midlands 41.3%

  • Eastern England 44.8%

  • South-west England - 44.7%

  • South-east England - 47.1%

  • London - 47.9%

Although the Prime Minister did not mention education in the North East specifically, he said there was “absolutely no reason” why some children in the country “should lag behind”.

He then unveiled the surprise pledge to offer a "levelling up premium of up to £3,000" to encourage talented maths and science teachers work in disadvantaged areas. 


Mr Johnson mentioned several infrastructure commitments and called transport "one of the supreme leveller uppers".

After saying "it is a disgrace that you cannot swiftly cross the Pennines by rail", the Prime Minister made a clear pledge to deliver on Northern Powerhouse Rail.

However, no details were provided.

Mr Johnson also promised to "restore those sinews of the union that have been allowed to atrophy..." such as "the A1 north of Berwick and on into Scotland" - presumably referring to the previously announced construction of a dual carriageway through Northumberland.

Social care

The Prime Minister said the pandemic was a "lightning flash illumination of a problem we have failed to address for decades" - referring to the social care system.

"In 1948, this country created the National Health Service but kept social care local," he said. "And though that made sense in many ways, generations of older people have found themselves lost in the gap."

Besides broadly promising to "get social care done", Mr Johnson said he would tackle the issue by using technology rather than siphoning "billions of new taxes into crucial services without improving performance".

Mr Johnson also defended his National Insurance increase to pay for improvements to the NHS and the social care system, Mr Johnson said: "Does anyone seriously imagine that we should not now be raising the funding to sort it out?"

Besides regional and levelling up commitments, the Prime Minister promised to turn the UK into a high-wage, high-skilled, high-productivity and low-tax economy - though he accepted there are "difficult" times ahead.

The Labour Party has accused the Prime Minister of speaking in "empty slogans".

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, joined many Labour MPs in criticising the government's decision to bring the universal credit uplift to an end despite their conference slogan to "Build Back Better".