BORIS Johnson has offered the “skeleton” of plans to level up the UK when he proposed greater regional devolution in England in a speech billed as a major bid to define his vision for the UK.

The prime minister suggested English county leaders could possibly get fresh powers and reiterated plans for investment on infrastructure, education and regeneration, but offered few new details for his great ambition.

But he promised that boosting nothern England will not be to the detriment of the south, as he tries to keep traditional Tory voters onside while courting former Labour supporters in the north and Midlands.

One new proposal in the speech at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry on Thursday, was to “rewrite the rule book” to take a “more flexible approach to devolution” in England.

He said local leaders in English towns should be “given the tools to make things happen for their communities”.

Mr Johnson added: “To do that we must take a more flexible approach to devolution in England.

“We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties and there is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we’ve devolved to city leaders.”


But he cautioned “we must get the right local leadership” so there cannot be a “one size fits all template”, as he criticised the “looney left”.

One possibility he said "is a directly elected mayor for individual counties. And if you can think of a better title than mayor for somebody who represents a county then please send me an email.”

In a press conference during which he was challenged on allegations that his past remarks have given a green light for online racism, he was asked where his clear strategy for levelling up is.

“I am respectfully going to urge you to just go back over some of what I said because I do think that in all fairness there was at least the skeleton of what to do,” Mr Johnson responded.

He said a levelling up policy paper is expected to be published later this year, when more detail would be fleshed out.

  • This article originally appeared on our sister site The National.