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Is Truss’s election a death knell for levelling up?
'All the signs are that she's not going to keep going in quite the same direction as Boris Johnson'
Dear Millers — with Liz Truss poised to become our new prime minister, we ask what that means for the North. Despite reiterating her commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail during the leadership hustings, there was no mention of levelling up in her speech after she won the Conservative leadership race this afternoon, and she’s been clear that she wants to govern as a low-tax, small-state Tory.
As usual, we have an interesting line-up of things you can get stuck into this week, including a rare dip at Victoria Baths and a silent disco at Manchester Central Library.
At the weekend, we published Jack’s laugh-out-loud piece about how he (reluctantly) became a stand-up comedian. And last week Mill members got an editor’s edition, which contained portraits of self-styled goths and bemoaned the lack of literary events in Manchester. They also got a newsletter examining a story that was published after the murder of Sarah Everard, about a stalker “terrorising women” across south Manchester. In the piece, Mollie asks: How should the media report threats to women’s safety?
Our recent reporting into homelessness in Manchester seems to be spurring action within the council. An internal email seen by The Mill — sent to homeless directorate employees by deputy council leader Joanna Midgley — said that while our stories “haven't gained much traction at the moment, I know you may have some questions and concerns". Midgley said David Ashmore, the director of housing operations, has prepared a "briefing on the background of these articles, and the work being done to address some of the challenges raised". If you want to support investigative journalism that holds institutions to account and pushes them to do better, take out a subscription below. And if you want to give our stories even more traction, please do share our tweet or post the link on social media.
This week’s weather 🌦
Our weather forecast comes from local weather man Martin Miles, who says we can expect very warm temperatures that will gradually cool off towards the end of the week.
Tuesday 🌦 Cooler with a mix of bright spells and heavy showers. Showers will be prevalent PM. Max 22°c.
Wednesday 🌦 Another mixed day with sunny intervals and showers. The showers will be more widespread and heavier. Breezy. Max 21°c.
Thursday 🌦 Showery once more, although there will be some prolonged drier periods. Breezy. Max 20°c.
Friday 🌦 Noticeably cooler with occasional showers interspersed with bright spells. Max 18°c.
Weekend 🌦 Turning settled briefly before low pressure returns next week.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook. Daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
Big story: Is Truss’s election a death knell for levelling up?
Top line: Liz Truss will become the country’s new prime minister tomorrow after winning the Conservative leadership race. She beat Rishi Sunak by nearly 21,000 votes. During her acceptance speech, she thanked outgoing leader Boris Johnson for delivering Brexit and “crushing Jeremy Corbyn”, but held off mentioning his flagship policy, levelling up.
Right now isn’t the ideal time to become prime minister. Truss has to contend with a looming economic crisis marked by spiralling energy bills, a cost-of-living emergency and industrial action from railway workers, nurses and teachers. It seems unlikely that regional inequality will be near the top of her in-tray at No.10.
But before we get on to that, let's look at what the new PM plans to do about these big national issues.
On energy prices:
On Thursday, Truss will announce plans to tackle the energy crisis, which may include a freeze on the energy price rise.
It isn’t clear yet whether this would be wholesale or just target vulnerable households. Covering all households is expected to cost £100 billion.
On the cost-of-living:
Truss is expected to press ahead with tax-cuts to “put money back in the pockets of hard-working people”.
She wants to cut regulation on business, and hailed the capital as the key to the country’s economic recovery, saying she would be: “London’s strongest champion”.
So, what about levelling up? During the leadership contest, there were some playground-style “I’m more northern than you are” spats between Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak, whose seat is in leafy North Yorkshire. This is with good reason: the 2019 election saw the Tories pick up 28 northern seats.
Boris Johnson’s promise to “Get Brexit Done” was central to that victory, but so was his pledge to level up the towns and cities that helped him topple the red wall. With him leaving No. 10, there has been fear levelling up will be next to go.
In today’s Spectator, Isabel Hardman writes that, while Truss appreciates the importance of regional inequality, “all the signs are that she's not going to keep going in quite the same direction as Boris Johnson”. A separate Spectator piece says the new prime minister has very different economic ideas to her predecessor, with James Kirkup writing: “She may have the blessing of Boris Johnson, many of his allies and the members who backed him. But when it comes to growth and the economy, Liz Truss is offering anything but continuity.”
Here’s what Truss has said so far on levelling up and regional inequality:
In July, she pledged to deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, reversing the government’s previous downgrade of the plans for new lines across the North. There will be huge pressure from northern politicians to deliver on that promise.
Truss has also shown support for more metro mayors. Recent reports have said devolving further powers to regional leaders this way will be key to levelling up.
However, when Truss visited Manchester for a hustings, she described Andy Burnham as a “miserablist mayor” with more focus on supporting “militant trade unions” and cutting public access to the city centre. “He doesn’t want opportunities for people in this city and he has to be defeated,” she said.
Truss’s Thatcherite instincts — small state, low taxes, visceral dislike of unions — are “incompatible with the state intervention levelling up requires,” according to Freddie Hayward of the New Statesman. Her tax-cut plans are expected to benefit the wealthiest in society far more than the poorest, and she has already had to u-turn once after proposing to cut regional public sector pay, a plan derided as “levelling down”.
Home of the week
This lovely 2-bed flat in Stockport would make an ideal first home. It features wood floors and an open kitchen. It’s on the market for £200,000.
Your Mill news briefing
Andy Burnham caught a bus to Shudehill interchange today to mark the introduction of fare caps in Greater Manchester. Single fares are capped at £2 for adults and £1 for children while day tickets, which can be used on all bus services across the city region, now cost £5. Burnham also announced his plans to write to the new prime minister over Avanti West Coast’s cuts to rail services between Manchester and London Euston, saying that return to a normal timetable “has to be an early priority”. Speaking to reporters this morning, he said that “it simply isn’t good enough” that Manchester has one train an hour. “Every day this is not sorted is a day of damage to the Greater Manchester economy and a day of misery for passengers.” Despite the backlash to service cuts, Avanti is due to have its contract renewed.
Speaking of rail disruption, services between Manchester and West Yorkshire are set to resume after being suspended since last Thursday. A burst water pipe in Audenshaw flooded three miles of railway line. It has taken five days of “around-the-clock work” by United Utilities and Network Rail engineers to fix the leak and repair the lines.
Hallam Hope, a football player for Oldham Athletic, was seriously injured after being attacked in the staff car park of Boundary Park. Hope was attacked after his team’s 2-0 defeat against Chesterfield on Sunday. And in Bury, a 12-year-old girl was injured at a football match after flares were thrown into the stadium. A footballer was also injured.
The family of a Sikh priest who was attacked in Manchester has appealed for help in finding the attacker. The 62-year-old has been left with permanent brain damage after being assaulted on Tib Street in the Northern Quarter.
The City, a pub which has been open on Oldham Street — under various names — since 1804, closed yesterday. The pub is meeting with the council later this week to discuss its options, one of which includes a refurbishment. While not the prettiest, it served a group of drinkers often overlooked in Manchester’s rapidly-growing hospitality scene. We went for a drink there, and a few other pubs around the area, to meet the people they serve. You can read about that here.
Our favourite reads
David Bowie and the rise of glam rock — The Guardian
From the Guardian archives, this 1972 article is about the opening UK’s first purpose-built rock arena in Manchester. It had David Bowie headlining on the first night, who was “submerged” by a “sudden wave of fame”. “The confidence of the superstar, but as Ziggy Stardust, he sings of the doubts as well as the pride. He was the nazz with God-given ass, he took it all too far but boy could he play guitar.”
A sweet and sour wind up — Big Issue North
“…while he travelled the world and lived everywhere from Malaya to Monaco, Burgess was a Mancunian first and foremost,” writes Dan Whitehead in this piece about Anthony Burgess and his most infamous work, A Clockwork Orange. One of the violent scenes in the novel was based on real events: in 1944, his wife Lynne was attacked by a US serviceman during a blackout which caused her to miscarry. “The harrowing scene in which Alex and his droogs invade the home of a novelist and his wife was based on this savagery.”
Metrolink's future is 'unclear’ — Manchester Evening News
As the recent bus fare caps herald the next step toward Greater Manchester’s aspirations to have a London-style integrated public transport system, we thought this was a comprehensive article about the fate of the Metrolink. GM’s tram network needed a government bailout between March 2020 and April 2022, and over the past 12 months, passenger numbers have fallen. Danny Vaughan, head of Metrolink, said rises in electricity prices would lead to a £6m increase in operating costs. The absence of a rescue package for Metrolink from the government was described by one person as “holding the city to ransom.”
Our to do list
🎶 Join saxophonist Jess Gillam at Halle St. Peter's for an eclectic evening of music, supporting Awards for Young Musicians, a charity that helps talented young musical people from low-income families. Programme includes Bizet’s Jeux de Infants Op.22. Starts 6.30pm. Book here.
🎭 Mortar is a live performance and soundscape about a man who is stuck on 9th floor of a building. It’s by Adèle Le Gallez at the Manchester School of Theatre. Starts 8pm on Cavendish Street. Book here.
📚 Adam Farrer, author of essay collection Cold Fish Soup which won the 2021 NorthBound Book Award, will be at Blackwell’s Bookshop for his book launch. Cold Fish Soup blends memoir and place writing, and is described as a “clear-eyed” and “unsentimental” account of small-town life. Starts 6.30pm. Book here.
🕺 Manchester Central Library will be pushing back the bookshelves to make way for a retro silent disco — you’ll get a pair of headphones so you can boogie to your own beat. Starts 8pm. Book here.
🌊 There’s a rare chance to swim in the beautiful Grade II* listed Victoria Baths all weekend. You can book a 45-minute swim session, and there will be food available. and activities for the kids on Sunday. Starts 8am. Book here.
🕺 Repercussion Festival returns to the Warehouse Project on Saturday. The lineup features Jamie xx, Little Simz and Fred again. Starts 2pm. Tickets here.