“Pull up”: when Boris Johnson’s flagship policy goes off the rails

“Pull up”: when Boris Johnson’s flagship policy goes off the rails

Every 10 to 20 minutes a train arrives at Bradford station. The driver gets out, walks to the back of the train and then resumes the journey.

A tedious but necessary routine because you cannot cross Bradford by train, even if the city of West Yorkshire (the sixth largest in England) is not at the end of the line.

Local elected officials have been calling for a solution for decades and when Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a landslide victory in the 2019 election promising to ‘pull up’ towns like Bradford, it gave them hope. This program, at the heart of the leader’s electoral successes in the working classes, aimed precisely through this kind of measure to improve the daily lives of regions that feel neglected.

But when two years later, his government finally announced a rail modernization plan, it was disappointing: the station project had been shelved.

“I was really disappointed and disgusted,” said Mandy Ridyard, chief financial officer of Produmax, a Bradford-based aerospace engineering company concerned with the city being better connected to attract an innovative workforce.

“We are trying to catch up. So not investing…it’s really madness because there are such opportunities,” she told AFP.

– Electoral promise –

In Bradford, May 24, 2022 (AFP/Archives – OLI SCARFF)

If at the international level, Boris Johnson is best known for Brexit, at the national level, he has placed the fight against regional disparities at the heart of his political program.

In 2019, that pledge helped the Tory wrest dozens of constituencies from Labor in deprived parts of central and northern England.

But since his election, there has been little tangible progress, or even a deterioration of the situation, accuse his opponents.

And despite occasional displays of national unity such as the recent celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II, the UK is more divided than ever, between Scottish independence desires and the push from supportive republican parties. to reunification in Northern Ireland.

“Pull up”, analyzes Mike Cartwright, of the West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce “It was a wonderful slogan (…) and they got away with it for a long time, without explaining what it means and how we implement it.”

– “Forgotten” –

Under this scheme, Bradford and surrounding towns have received additional funding, and the area has been designated an ‘education investment area’.

The West Yorkshire region should also benefit from new decentralized powers.

A canteen in a food bank, in Bradford, on May 24, 2022 (AFP - OLI SCARFF)
A canteen in a food bank, in Bradford, on May 24, 2022 (AFP – OLI SCARFF)

But while in London, a new line has recently opened after costing around 19 billion pounds (22.5 billion euros), the anger of the inhabitants of Bradford against the aborted station project does not subside.

Especially since this decision goes against a study carried out by the consultancy firm “People, Places, Policy and Data Unit” which revealed that of the 20 largest British cities, Bradford suffered from the worst connections.

“It felt like we were forgotten again,” said Josie Barlow, a food bank manager who received a grant to help buy a building.

She added that they were “really grateful” for the £225,000 windfall but stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure.

Once the capital of wool, Bradford is now ranked the fifth most deprived area and sixth in unemployment rate nationally, according to the government’s 2019 poverty index.

“Investments, big companies where a lot of people are employed, that’s what we need” defends Josie Barlow.

In Redcar, about 100 miles northeast of Bradford, the government’s dedicated program to ‘pull up’ certain areas has helped renovate a run-down and crime-ridden housing estate.

This is “just one example of where it has made a difference”, assures AFP Clare Harrigan, development director of Beyond Housing, which rents many low-rent housing.

“We lived in misery until it all started,” says Sandra Cottrell, a 64-year-old resident.

However, she is skeptical of the ambitions of Boris Johnson, who arouses a lot of mistrust. “I don’t believe what he says.”

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