PM to argue his ‘levelling-up’ project is a ‘win-win’ as he sets out post-pandemic vision

Boris Johnson will argue his “levelling-up” project is a “win-win” and will not mean “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as he sets out his post-pandemic vision for the UK.

In a speech in the West Midlands on Thursday, the prime minister will indicate his flagship programme will benefit the whole country, not just the Conservatives’ new parliamentary constituencies in the north and midlands.

It comes after the Tories lost the previously-safe home counties seat of Chesham and Amersham to the Liberal Democrats last month, and some in the party warned ‘levelling up’ must not come at the expense of the party’s southern heartlands.

Mr Johnson is expected to say the programme is not a “jam-spreading operation”.

Yet he will criticise previous governments for focussing investment on “areas where house prices are already sky high and where transport is already congested”.

He will say: “By turbo charging those areas – especially in London and the South East – you drive prices even higher and you force more and more people to move to the same expensive areas and the result is that their commutes are longer, their trains are more crowded, they have less time with their kids.

“They worry at the same time that the younger generation won’t be able to get a home and that their leafy suburb or village will be engulfed by new housing development but without the infrastructure to go with it.

But the prime minister is also expected to argue: “We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies. We don’t think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer.”

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s deputy leader said: “Boris Johnson has overseen the worst death toll in Europe and the greatest hit to any major economy. Two years as prime minister and all we have is this empty husk of a speech that shows he has no plan for the future of our country other than pitching people and towns against each other.

“Unlike Labour, he has no plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain. He has no jobs promise for young people. And he has no recovery plan for our children. Britain deserves better.”

The prime minister will also set out policies to regenerate high streets, including making pavement licences for pubs and cafes permanent, and extending takeaway pints for a further 12 months.

The government is due to publish a white paper with detailed policy proposals in the autumn.