Boris Johnson’s levelling up speech in Coventry on Thursday was billed as the moment the prime minister would set out the substance behind the central idea of his premiership.
In the event, he announced £50m for community football pitches and 15 more local high street upgrades, and mused about the potential benefits of “mayors” for counties, asking the public to email him if they had a better name. There was much characteristic enthusiasm but little policy meat.
Some southern MPs were reassured by his message that he doesn’t want to “level down” affluent areas. But for other jittery Conservatives the lack of substance was a worrying sign of broader political drift at the heart of government.
“I was very, very surprised at how poor Johnson’s speech was,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London. “I would have thought that was an opportunity to set out the government’s stall and go back to the manifesto…