It has frequently been said that the government’s “levelling up” objectives are vague, perhaps deliberately so, and some say – mentioning no names – that it is primarily a political project, designed to nourish populist antipathy to London as a place, a population or an idea, while pointedly giving preferential treatment to other parts of the country in ways that do little to dilute central government control. But what do Londoners ourselves think “levelling up” means?
A new poll by Savanta for think tank Centre for London sheds some useful light on Londoners’ views. Forty-three per cent of those surveyed said they know a lot or a little about “levelling up”. A notable 18 per cent think it is an empty slogan, while a similar proportion, 20 per cent, haven’t even heard of it.
Is “levelling up” seen to be for Londoners? A tidy 37 per cent understand it to be about helping the the country’s poorest people, but not those in the capital. Unsurprisingly, fewer than one fifth support the idea of “levelling up” if it means Londoners could be worse off, compared with 55 per cent who oppose it in those terms.
One particularly intriguing finding is that Labour and Conservative supporters are just about as likely to think London has problems national government is not paying enough attention to: 44 percent and 47 per cent respectively, though more Labour than Tory voters were particularly damning. In all, 44 per cent of Savanta’s respondents think the capital isn’t getting the attention it needs.
There were large majorities in favour of the government giving London more money for tackling its problems and for funding public services – 76 per cent and 75 per cent, and no great surprise there. Perhaps more interesting is that 69 per cent believe the Mayor and the capital’s local authorities should have more power to run the city. And a hefty 71 per cent think the Mayor should make a stronger case for more government investment in London (to which the Mayor might privately respond it hasn’t been for want of trying).
Savanta Director Oliver Worsfold says the findings show that Londoners strongly support the idea of improving quality of life in the rest of the country (71 per cent) and that plenty (44 per cent) would like it to become richer, but also that “Londoners want to see a rising tide that lifts all boats” with London including in investment to “level up”, not excluded from it.
Centre for London has just launched a new research project designed to challenge the entwining of “levelling up” with anti-London attitudes and to influence the agenda so that it recognises London’s needs as well as its importance to the UK’s economy. Michael Gove has been reached out to. How will he respond?
Follow On London’s Levelling Down Monitor here.
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