Last year, Curia’s book titled Levelling Up 2.0 A Blueprint for the Future was written and launched by a series of current and former Conservative MPs, including Sir Robert Buckland KBE MP, Bim Afolami, Katherine Fletcher, Jane Stevenson, and Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen.
For the launch of the book, Curia put on an event where Sir Robert Buckland and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, both gave an address, which was followed by a panel session to discuss the book and its contents. Explaining why he is so passionate about the subject of levelling up, Sir Robert Buckland outlined his upbringing in a part of the United Kingdom that suffered greatly from industrial decline.
Buckland expressed his hope and encouragement upon witnessing the Conservative Government’s actions in the 1980s, spearheaded by leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine. He also highlighted the creation of development corporations in areas like Liverpool and Cardiff Bay, which brought about economic revitalisation and positively impacted the lives of individuals within these communities. “It’s not just about bricks and mortar and roads and bridges, important though they are. It’s about the people” he stated.
Meanwhile, Gove stressed that the Conservative Party must embrace its role as a national party, seeking to address the needs of all citizens. Rejecting divisive politics and neglect of certain regions, he insisted that effective governance requires a commitment to empowering and serving the entire national community. While acknowledging the nation’s achievements, Gove also candidly acknowledged the persistent disparities in productivity, education, and job opportunities across regions. He attributed these challenges to factors like deindustrialisation and globalisation, which have impacted the economic strength and pride of various communities.
Additionally, Gove passionately told those in attendance that levelling up is not just an economic imperative but also a moral obligation. He firmly believes that denying equal opportunities based on circumstances beyond individuals’ control is unjust.
“We have to represent every community, every region, every nation, every tradition, every individual within the United Kingdom. If our politics is based on pitting groups against each other, or if our politics is neglectful of any part of the United Kingdom on the basis that they won’t vote for us, then we forfeit the right to govern. Because we can only govern effectively and successfully if we are seeking to address the needs of every part of the United Kingdom, our entire national community.” Gove asserted.
In the subsequent panel that followed the two speeches from Sir Robert Buckland and Michael Gove, panellists discussed regional disparities, HS2, how to measure levelling up, health outcomes, and criminal justice.
For example, Jane Stevenson asserted that “The transfer back into T-levels where you can earn and learn the skill and don’t have to go down a primary academic route, makes a big difference” While Katherine Fletcher highlighted the role of devolution within transport stating “I’d like to see us think more broadly through devolution about creating smaller-scale transport schemes.”
The discussion provided valuable insights into the complexities of achieving a levelled-up society. It emphasised the need for collaboration between the public and private sectors, addressing inequalities, and the continuous nature of this ambitious endeavour.