Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Sonia Price
Features Writer
5:00 AM 16th October 2021

Are We Really Doing Our Level Best?

Image Pixabay
Image Pixabay
I have to level with you, I haven’t a clue just what Boris Johnson is talking about when he talks about levelling up. Was his rhetoric nothing more than a gig for a handsomely paid speechwriter - hopefully one based somewhere North of London - if he is as good as his words - and that’s basically it? We’ll soon forget about it.

In his speech he vented a lot of shocking to hear, but not really surprising when you think about it, disparities in life-expectancy and university education take up between the South and the North.

Basically he exhorts us to clever up, skill up and take a big boosterism pill so that we can better compete with our European friends - or does that mean compete with our better European friends. Sounds good. Could we have some details please? Any.

Shameful I think that it took the searchlight of a pandemic that left our leaders no place to hide and finally they must confront the national shame that if you live in Glasgow the statistics suggest you will likely die an entire decade earlier than an if you live in more affluent places in Britain.

I wonder which corner of civilised Britain is to be the bench-marker for this levelling up of which he talks? York, Dundee, Boroughbridge? What exactly will it mean for a sorely undercapitalised and underexploited Cathedral city like Ripon? Will there be exciting plans to pedestrianise the centre, the market place filled with Bruges-style open air eateries and bars. Or should we temper our expectations? Ripon is after all a tiny city. Perhaps Boris will send us a few litres of paint to spruce up Ripon’s forlorn shop fronts.

Or dare we dream big? Perhaps Ripon’s Victorian swimming baths could be drained to accommodate our own micro stock exchange trading in a crypto-currency of our own making. The brokers could then spend their currency (where accepted) in the ritzy new cocktail bars which would pop up like spring crocuses.

Photo by Cristiano Pinto on Unsplash
Photo by Cristiano Pinto on Unsplash
Perhaps the Cathedral could replenish its dwindling revenue with a healthy dose of entrepreneurialism. Might I suggest developing a micro-brewery in the crypt. This would keep the congregation refreshed and cheered and would likely improve attendances on Sunday - “Mine’s a half of Laughing Bishop and my friend here will have a pint of Wonky Mitre.”

I’m worried though. Levelling up sounds like a very big project. Let’s face it it’s going to take some time. Could anyone out there tell me how long it is going to take for us to level up?

In the meantime quite a lot of us I should think could do with a new coat and some winter shoes. I wonder how some employers out there, particularly those who profit nicely from zero-hour contract workers can look themselves in the mirror and their temporary workers in the eye when they know they could afford to pay the 50p or £1 more per hour, but they would rather not.
For those less fortunate workers who have been living a below-par existence wouldn’t it be the decent thing to get some pennies into their pockets.

Come on - these people have already taken a kicking from lost work through the pandemic. We are facing a costly Christmas with energy and food prices set to soar. When those gig-economy workers in the north can’t afford to light their sheds could the government please shed some light on how they are going to stay warm, decently clothed and fed to greet the great new Britain we are so looking forward to.

I do acknowledge that there are some very small and plucky independent businesses who would genuinely struggle to pay above a minimum wage but for those profitable companies who could feed more into local economies by paying their temp staff a bit extra - now really is the time to do it. You see everyone knows that when you put a few extra quid into the pockets of who recruitment consultants so charmingly term low-skilled workers, it goes right back into their local economies.

The ladies might have a haircut or a manicure, the guys a new shirt and a nice bunch of flowers for their partner. With a little goodwill and imagination it could all be different.

All right I’ve said my piece. I’ll come down from my pulpit now - but I’d just like to try a half pint of that Loose Canon before I make my way home.