Boris Johnson promised to close the North-South divide with a new generation of rail routes today – as he fueled election rumours by ‘love bombing’ Labour heartlands.
The new Prime Minister launched a charm offensive on the North in a speech in Manchester, as he continues the breakneck start to his time in No10.
In one of his first major policy pledges, Mr Johnson announced funds for a new multi-billion pound trans-Pennine rail route between Manchester and Leeds.
He said he wanted to end the ‘long-term decline’ across much of the North, saying politicians had ‘failed’ many areas that wanted change.
Mr Johnson is also drawing up plans for a major £2billion fund to improve life in Britain’s ‘left-behind towns’ – seemingly aimed at Brexit-backing areas that have traditionally voted Labour.
Mr Johnson said that new infrastructure is needed to play a critical role in his pledge to ‘level up’ parts of the country whose economies have lagged behind London and the South East.
In another tub-thumping performance, he promised to pump more money into the NHS, schools and police.
Boris Johnson launched a charm offensive on the North in a speech in Manchester, as he continues the breakneck start to his time in No10
Before the speech, Mr Johnson visited the site of a new tram line in Manchester and spoke to construction workers
Mr Johnson tried to quash mounting speculation about a looming general election last night, saying he had no plans to call one.
What will happen during the PM’s first months in power?
July 27: Boris Johnson makes keynote speech on rail infrastructure in Manchester.
August 1: Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
Tory candidate Chris Davies is seeking to regain the seat he was ousted from by a recall petition triggered in the wake of his conviction for submitting false expenses claims. If he fails, the new prime minister’s working majority in the Commons will be cut to just three.
August 24: G7 Summit in Biarritz. The new prime minister’s first appearance at a major global summit.
Donald Trump will be among the world leaders at the gathering, potentially providing the opportunity for a meeting with the controversial US president in an effort to highlight the importance of the special relationship and a future trade deal.
September: The UN General Assembly meeting in New York will provide another opportunity for the new prime minister to appear on the global stage and set out their vision for the country’s place in the world. –
September 29 to October 2: Conservative Party Conference.
The gathering in Manchester will be a key test of the new Tory leader’s ability to unite the party and provides a platform to use their closing speech to address the nation.
October 17-18: EU summit. This is the last schedule meeting of EU leaders before the UK is due to leave the bloc – although an emergency gathering could be called before or afterwards.
October 31: The deadline for reaching a Brexit deal.
Unless there is a further extension, this will be the UK’s last day as a member of the European Union and it will leave, with or without an agreement.
But the high octane start to his premiership, together with his uncompromising pledges on Brexit, and the government’s majority have set alarm bells ringing in Westminster.
Jeremy Corbyn has been demanding a national poll, despite Labour struggling to avoid being torn apart by Brexit divisions and the raging anti-Semitism crisis.
Labour’s Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said today that it ‘feels like’ an election is imminent.
The move is part of wider pledge to strengthen the bonds that hold the country together in the wake of the divisive Brexit referendum.
Before the speech, Mr Johnson visited the site of a new tram line in Manchester and spoke to construction workers.
The Prime Minister donned a hard hat, hi-vis jacket and safety boots for the visit to the new Trafford Park Line.
During the 10-minute visit, Mr Johnson spoke to Alex Cropper, head of operations for Transport for Greater Manchester, Barry White, chief executive for Transport for the North, and Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister.
The new 5.5km line will extend the current Eccles tram line to the Trafford Centre and include six new stops.
The £350million line has been paid for with funding from the Government as part of Manchester’s devolution deal.
As Mr Johnson left the site, he jumped up on to the tram track and walked along the edge to the end of the line.
In his speech today, he pledged to ‘improve the unglamorous local services which people use every day’, such as buses.
He said improving the economy means focusing on ‘services within cities, not just services between cities’.
He added: ‘I want that to start now, with improvements that can happen in the short term, not just big engineering schemes that will take years.’
Mr Johnson is fleshing out aspects of his domestic agenda, including investment in education, tackling crime, boosting connectivity, and improving technology across the country.
The Prime Minister donned a hard hat, hi-vis jacket and safety boots for the visit to the new Trafford Park Line
Mr Johnson will try and win over Labour voters with the fund of more than £2billion to improved deprived towns in leave-voting areas.
The prime minister said he wants to ‘rebalace power, growth and productivity’ as he prepares for an early general election.
It improves upon Theresa May’s proposals for a ‘strong towns fund’, unveiled earlier this year – which earmarked £1.6billion.
But his predecessor was using the cash to win over Labour MPs to back her Brexit deal, whereas Mr Johnson wants to charm voters turned off by Jeremy Corbyn’s vacillation over Brexit.
But the flagship announcement is backing for a new route across the Pennines to improve services which critics say have suffered from years of under-investment.
The plans will not be published until the autumn, after a review into the £56billion HS2 has been carried out.
Mr Johnson said local people would take the lead on the ‘exact proposal’ they want, which could be a brand new route, or new tracks laid alongside existing lines.
He will say: ‘I want to be the PM who does with Northern Powerhouse Rail what we did with Crossrail in London.
‘And today I am going to deliver on my commitment to that vision with a pledge to fund the Leeds to Manchester route.