Only one word describes those in the Levelling Up industries. Working in dangerous and often filthy conditions, trapped in the long nights of the Black Country, they are heroes. Toiling in the dark, often working by touch they can barely see the figures in front of their faces and yet they come up from the depths like dwarves with diamonds.
“Salford is the 18th most deprived local authority in the country,’ one Labour Leveller-Upper told a sombre Chamber. “Increasing Council tax levies by 5 per cent is the equivalent of 1.8 per cent spending on public services. Whereas in Surrey a 5 per cent increase is equivalent to 3.1% of public spending.”
Cognitively-impaired observers in the Gallery shook our heads. These statistical miracles – beyond mortal comprehension – are hewn from the living databases. Only those who have spent their lives hacking at the dataface, often with their bare hands, understand what such discoveries mean, what to do with them, how to use them. Only others of their tribe have any sense of what they’re talking about. It’s hard and lonely work.
Still, someone has to do it.
But why, Michael Gove must be asking, does it have to be him?
The dancing metropolitan, the political Beau Brummel with his fine mind, supple character and wonderfully resonant voice so capacious in the bottom end. What is he doing among these horny-handed, hessian-clad sons and daughters of data?
Why isn’t he foreign secretary? Why not Chancellor? He sits and listens with wonderful sincerity to claims that Levelling Up’s Round 2 is frozen in real terms. That council tax has gone up by £39 per household. That new shopping opportunities in Batley will be leveraged by the pedestrianisation of the city centre.
He suffers setbacks like a philosopher. He was called a sadist by his enemies – there is no doubt in Guido’s mind that Gove is not a sadist. He is twitted by Chris Philp about getting excited about a £200 million cocaine haul. That is a foolish joke. In Guido’s experience, after 45 years of age, cocaine is useless; a respectable man needs clinical grade LSD to dance in public.
Maybe that’s what he is using, to reconcile himself to his new position. If so – and I admit it’s a long shot – for next Levelling questions, I’ll have what he’s having.