'People Are Laughing At What You're Saying': Tory MP Bombs With His Defence Of Levelling Up

A Tory MP has faced a BBC audience “laughing” at the government’s flagship levelling up plans.

On Monday, a live episode of Newsnight was broadcast from Doncaster as part of a series of town hall-style “on the road” programmes ahead of the general election.

The city is one of the areas to receive funding as part of the agenda to reduce regional inequalities, which was championed as “levelling up” by former prime minister Boris Johnson.

But when an audience in the newly-created Doncaster East and Isle of Axholme constituency were asked by presenter Victoria Derbyshire whether they’d experienced any impact of the policy, she was greeted with a unanimous “no” (See video at top of story).

When asked about the plan, Conservative MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, one of the panellists, put forward a version of Rishi Sunak’s “stick with the plan” argument.

He said: “We’re the only people who do actually have a plan, certainly in terms of how we want to invest. Now levelling up, of course, it’s something Boris Johnson made a big deal of in 2019.

“I think it’s not just about large cash transfers, though, it’s about pride in our communities. It’s about opportunities ...”

While in full swing, Derbyshire interjected to say: “With respect, there are people here in the audience who are laughing at what you’re saying.”

Clarke-Smith, who represents a Nottinghamshire constituency, went on: “We just had a pandemic for two years. We spent £400 billion on that. That’s going to impact a lot of things. It’s impacted the NHS. It’s impacted a lot of building projects. It’s impacted all of these things together, so we are still recovering from that.”

He added: “But we’re going on the right path. We’re getting inflation down and we will see that levelling up and we will see that investment, including here in Doncaster East.”