Harborough MP handpicked by Boris Johnson to head up the Prime Minister’s mission to boost the economy in northern England

Some see this as a sign that Neil O’Brien MP is highly regarded by the Tory party

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:48 pm
Harborough MP Neil O’Brien has been handpicked by Boris Johnson to head up the Prime Minister’s flagship mission to ‘level up’ the country.

Harborough MP Neil O’Brien has been handpicked by Boris Johnson to head up the Prime Minister’s flagship mission to ‘level up’ the country.

Neil, 42, told the Harborough Mail today that he was “proud and excited” to have been chosen by the Premier personally to carry out his pledge to the north of England.

The Conservative MP is being handed the high-powered role weeks after making national and international headlines when he was hit with hardline sanctions by China – and banned from going there.

And it’s the biggest sign yet that the Harborough MP could be heading to the very top of British politics.

“I’m very proud and excited to have been picked out by Boris Johnson himself to do this job.

“Levelling up the country is right at the heart of the Government’s agenda,” Neil told the Mail.

“It’s just about the most crucial item on our agenda after beating Covid.

“And I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in to tackling this critical task over the next few weeks and months.”

MP for Harborough since June 2017, he was a senior Treasury aide to former Chancellor George Osborne when they worked on the Government’s Northern Powerhouse drive together.

Yorkshire-born Neil will be using the experience, insight and expertise he gained then to boost and overhaul the so-called Red Wall seats across the north that the Tories won from Labour in December 2019.

Talking after his general election landslide victory, Boris Johnson said at the time about his new army of voters: “Those people want change.

“We cannot, must not, must not, let them down.”

Saluting Neil’s new political powers, one Red Wall Tory MP told the Financial Times: “If anyone can make sense of this, it’s Neil.

“It’s a great appointment.

“England is very uneven with a lot of our national wealth and resources concentrated in London and the South-East.

“We will be aiming to create a much better balanced economy and nation,” vowed Neil.

“We’ll be doing that by tackling a wide range of issues such as boosting people’s skills through much better and more accessible training.

“We are setting out to improve our roads and public transport such as the railways and buses.

“We are determined to create new jobs across the north and carve out new opportunities for far more people as well as beefing up our infrastructure,” pledged Neil, who hails from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

“We’ll also be working hard on overhauling rural connectivity and making it as good as the rest of the country.

“It’s absolutely vital that people everywhere – especially across the north – are connected up digitally as we head deeper into the 21st century.

“Innovation is also key.

“We are brilliantly innovative in the UK.

“But we have to make sure we make that British genius for innovation commercially useful, viable and valuable too,” insisted the dad-of-two.

The MP, a special adviser on the economy and industrial strategy to former Prime Minister Theresa May, will be working alongside trade union leaders, business organisation the CBI and a range of leading think tanks.

Neil will also have direct access to Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street as well as the Cabinet Office as he sets out to turn England into a One Nation country after years of injustice, inequality and anger.

“I am very excited by this massive challenge.

“It might be a feather in my cap,” he said.

“But it’s also a big feather in the cap for Harborough because I have already learned so much representing this fantastic part of South Leicestershire.

“It’s great that I’ll be helping to shape our entire national political, economic and social agenda and future while based very much here in Harborough.

“And my constituents here can rest assured that I will still be giving them everything I’ve got in terms of time and effort,” said Neil, who’s been described as a “workaholic and an absolute machine”.