A monumental misunderstanding of levelling up has occurred in Whitehall. Someone up there thinks that writing Latinate prose and citing the Roman Empire can cover up the lack of money and lack of new ideas in the document. The style adopts a grandeur that the content does not deserve. It is terrifically dull and terrifically empty. Crucially, it lacks an understanding of the social mechanisms of capitalism which I would have thought quite important for the party that supports it with such enthusiasm.
The biggest gaff is that the writers believe that the poor all live in t’north and the rich reside in the rolling parkland of the south downs. Wrong. The poor are everywhere, in differing numbers and natures, sure, but not in a simple geographical location. Besides, the Northern Powerhouse rap has been tried before, hasn’t it? Have the writers ever been there, do you think, to the north, into a home on benefits? lived on a breadline budget? tried to get a council house? worked for Deliveroo or a stint on the taxis? ‘Course not. What they know about the north is based on several 15-minute photo opportunities in the last factory standing in the Red Wall constituencies.
It is cunningly written in the present progressive tense (National Curriculum Year 2) to cite a long list of moneys spent on the common good, like this: ‘That’s why we are investing in…’ to give the impression that there is money attached to the white paper. There is not. All of the money has long been public and in some cases, spent.
In case you are wondering, the list of things it says it will do are called ‘missions’, roughly: improve education, skills, health, wellbeing, pride in place, housing, crime and local leadership. It doesn’t say how, or how far, or how it will be funded, or who will do it but it says it will get done 2030.
But none of this is as bad as its misunderstanding of poverty. Poverty is not a geographical accident; it is a consequence of capitalism in this resource-rich first-world country. The poor are poor because the fruits of their labours have gone into the pockets of their masters and their shareholders. They are also poor because successive governments have failed to cull giant profits by giant companies.
Neither conservativism not liberalism can look at capitalism in the face. Capitalism makes winners and losers, rich and poor. It brings it on. It doesn’t level up, it differentiates and widens social gaps. You know that, right? So you know the solution. Ignore the white paper and join the Labour Party.