Boris Johnson presents London ‘almost as a villain’ in levelling up narrative, says business group leader

Boris Johnson presents London ‘almost as a villain’ in levelling up narrative, says business group leader

The chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has rebuked Boris Johnson for his attitude to the capital, saying that “London’s businesses certainly wish to hear a little less of London being presented almost as villain in the levelling- up narrative.”

Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this morning, Chamber chief executive Richard Burge said Johnson is right to say people shouldn’t “feel they have to move or commute to the south east in order to progress a career” but that this “shouldn’t mean levelling or talking London down”.

Burge’s remarks follow a speech in which Johnson mocked views he assigned to “north London dinner parties” and “lefty Islington lawyers” and promised help to parts of the North of England where Tory support has risen while hinting to more traditional voters in the Home Counties that forthcoming planning reforms will not result in housing developments they don’t wish to see.

Johnson was also warned by Burge that “the role of global mobility” should be recognised by his government. “London is the UK’s world city,” Burge stressed. “It is a key player in the global economy. We need to further ensure that investment into London brings further benefit across this country.  Do London down and that investment may end up leaving these shores altogether, and that benefits no one.”

The Chamber has been among a chorus of London business organisations and cross-party political bodies, along with Mayor Sadiq Khan, in calling for targeted support for sectors of the capital’s economy that have been badly hit by Covid and Transport for London to be given a sustainable long-term funding deal to enable it to maintain public transport service levels, which are vital to the capital’s recovery.

At the conference, a number of senior London Tories have expressed disquiet about the anti-London tone of Johnson’s administration, sharing fears that it is stoking anti-London sentiment and seeking to penalise the capital in search of political advantage.

Burge praised Johnson’s recognition that the UK private sector was crucial to the success of the country’s vaccination programme and urged him to support it in leading economic recovery from Covid and “in order to overcome new barriers and friction when trading with the EU.”

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