John Stevenson Set to Take Over NRG

The promotion of Jake Berry to Tory Party Chairman has created a power vacuum in one of the Party’s most influential backbench caucuses. The Northern Research Group has been key in holding the government to account on levelling up, fighting for Northern freedom during lockdown and additional Treasury support during the pandemic. Berry isn’t the only prominent NRG figure Truss elevated to ministerial office; Dehenna Davison, the 2019 MP for Bishop Aukland, was appointed as a Levelling Up Minister last week.

Among strong competition, Carlisle MP John Stevenson has come out on top to replace Berry as NRG chairman, subject to an AGM due after conference. Stevenson says he’s “very proud to be the NRG Chairman, during this crucial period for the North.” Will the NRG continue being a thorn in the side of the government, or be supportive now their man Berry’s on the inside? Time will tell…

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Workington Man Abandons Northern Research Group

Last Friday there were more than a few miffed Northern MPs willing to give spicy anonymous Lobby-terms quotes to hacks, after the PM pulled out of his Northern Research Group conference appearance to hop on a secret flight to Ukraine. Despite ministers, backbenchers and Jake Berry himself defending Boris’s decision, one ‘senior NRG figure’ told the press the MP had shown “total contempt” for them, after backing him in the leadership vote. Another NRG source told The Telegraph’s Chopper “Sadly today’s events show the PM has no commitment to levelling up, his voters, or the North of England”:

Unfortunately for the group, these anonymous briefings were a step too far for Mark Jenkinson, the Workington MP after whom the crucial 2019 voters Boris had to win – ‘Workington Man’ – are named. Guido’s now seen screenshots of the NRG Whatsapp group aftermath that Friday afternoon, which involved Jenkinson proclaiming “I always considered this group to contain fewer c***s than others. Goes to show you never can tell.” Promptly exiting the chat…

Such a happy family…

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EXCLUSIVE: 33 Northern Research Group MPs Demand Treasury Goes Further to Scrap Southern-Biased Spending Rules

After their official formation at the end of October, Guido can reveal the Northern Research Group is kicking into gear to lobby the Treasury on specific ‘levelling-up’ policies to boost their patches. A new letter organised by MP Kevin Hollinrake sees 33 Tories call on the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, to go further in ending “structurally biased” Treasury spending rules, which see the Homes England housing formula allocate the majority of its funding towards the South East of England. Spot which of the 41 MPs who backed the NRG in October have dropped off the list of signatories – keeping their powder dry ahead of a new year reshuffle?

The sizable group of backbenchers note that while Rishi promised changes to the Treasury’s funding rules (the “Green Book”) in his November Spending Review, “there is scope for the Government to go further in order to achieve its aims”, calling on Barclay to replace the Housing Infrastructure Fund and

“ensure that the necessary funding is explicitly directed towards the North so we can help to achieve the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.”

With the NRG formally caucusing the government, as well as the 109 MPs from the 2019 intake restructuring into a lobbying movement with an elected chairman, No. 10 is going to find itself struggling to give its rank-and-file MPs the attention they all want…

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Tory MPs’ Northern Research Group Calls for Roadmap Out of High Tiers

41 northern Tory MPs have put their names to a letter from the newly established Northern Research Group, calling on the Government to set a clear roadmap for regions to climb down the tiering system an to “create a Northern Economic Recovery Plan to help our constituents build back better out of this Covid crisis.” A further 14 Tory MPs have signed the letter anonymously…

The Northern Research Group, founded by former Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry in the last couple of months, stresses that “our constituents have been some of the worst affected by Covid, with many losing jobs and businesses”, arguing the levelling up agenda “has never been more essential.”

The letter does also stress support for measures already taken by the Chancellor. One signatory tells Guido that the letter is intended to be “supportive of the Government and the PM”, implying that some media outlets have got the wrong end of the stick, going on to say “some outlets believe anything is an attack these days”. Guido will let readers decide for themselves. Read the letter in full below…

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