Boris Johnson plans to pour billions for Midlands and North after election win
Boris Johnson will tell his newly elected MPs on Monday that the government plans to direct billions of pounds of investment into the midlands and north of England — areas whose support delivered last week’s crushing election victory.
The prime minister will promise the 109 new Conservative MPs arriving in Westminster that the government will start pouring cash into parts of Britain that had never previously voted Tory, and push ahead with Brexit immediately.
After securing an 80-seat Commons majority, Mr Johnson will on Friday introduce withdrawal legislation to take Britain out of the EU, in order to complete the process in time for the scheduled departure date of January 31.
Once Britain has left the EU, Mr Johnson is planning a big shake-up of government, including creating a beefed-up business department that combines international trade, inward investment and a new regional agenda.
That will be followed by a Budget in February or March. Sajid Javid, chancellor of the exchequer, will earmark tens of billions of pounds from a £100bn infrastructure fund — spread over a five-year parliament — for the midlands and north.
Mr Johnson’s plan for the first 100 days of his administration is intended to set the tone for what he hopes will be a two-term government, extending Tory dominion over Britain from 2010 into the late 2020s.
The Labour opposition has descended into an acrimonious postmortem over its worst performance since 1935. Jeremy Corbyn, party leader, claimed Labour had “won the arguments” but many of his MPs want him to stand down immediately.
The prime minister last week called the election “an earthquake” and Number 10 said: “The new generation of MPs that have resulted from Labour towns turning blue will help change our politics for the better.”
The Conservative MPs gathering at Westminster on Monday will look and sound different to those in the previous parliament; a number of new Tory MPs are in their twenties, unexpectedly elected in previously rock-solid Labour seats in the north.
Mr Johnson will attempt to hit the ground running, starting on Monday with a limited cabinet reshuffle to replace ministers who lost their seats or who stepped down: Nicky Morgan, culture secretary, Alun Cairns, Welsh secretary, and Zac Goldsmith, environment minister.
On Thursday a pared-down Queen’s Speech will be given, in which the monarch will reiterate many of the legislative proposals she announced in October, before Mr Johnson called a snap election, although there will be new bills.
Unusually legislation will be included requiring the government to meet its own promise to provide a £33.9bn per annum increase in the NHS budget by 2023-24; health was one of the main issues in the election.
New legislation will also be proposed on tougher sentencing for terrorists following the London Bridge attack and a bill to require unions and rail companies to guarantee a minimum level of service during strikes.
On Friday Mr Johnson will introduce the EU Withdrawal bill, intended to pave the way for Britain to leave the EU on January 31; it includes the prime minister’s Northern Ireland protocol which puts a border in the Irish Sea.
Meanwhile Mr Javid will use his Budget in the first quarter of 2020 to set out plans for a massive increase in infrastructure spending in parts of Britain that turned to the Conservatives in last week’s election.
Mr Javid’s fiscal rules allow him to borrow £20bn-25bn a year for capital investment, or about £100bn over a parliament. So far he has only allocated £22bn, creating space for a big increase in spending in the midlands and north.
The chancellor is looking to fund the £39bn “Northern Powerhouse rail” project, linking the big cities of the north, and the “Midlands Engine” project which aims to improve transport, skills and training in the country’s industrial heartland.
The infrastructure fund may also have to pay for cost overruns on the HS2 high speed rail project — linking London to the midlands and north. The project is under review, after ministers admitted it could cost £78bn, compared to its original £55bn budget.