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There were two noteworthy publications from Her Majesty’s Government last week. The Sue Gray report (or “update” as it was designated) was very short. The Levelling Up White Paper was very long. But there was a similar mindset.

Sue Gray noted that “the number of staff working in No 10 Downing Street has steadily increased in recent years.” Indeed so. Though it reflects a general trend. The ONS reports there are now 505,000 civil servants – up by 42,000 from a year ago. Having hundreds of people crammed into Downing Street was starting to get unmanageable. Spilling out in the garden, plotting against each other, smuggling in bottles of wine in a suitcase, micro-managing Government Departments and gumming up the decision-making process.

So the answer is to slim back down on the numbers, right? No! It is to set up a Prime Minister’s Department – extra HR, more line managers, guidance on whistleblowing, monitoring of “excessive alcohol”. A Permanent Secretary instead of – or perhaps as well as – the Cabinet Secretary.

Turning to the “left behind” parts of the country, it is obvious that there are towns and cities where decades of municipal socialism has left a hostile environment for free enterprise. So the Government has concluded that the answer is another layer of administration, under the direction of more socialist politicians, to create an extra barrier to anyone foolhardy enough to contemplate investing in such territory.

In an episode of Yes Minister, there was dismay from Jim Hacker that the Department of Administrative Affairs employed “23,000 people just to administer other administrators.” He declared:

“We will have to do one of those time and motion studies and see how many we can do without.”

Sir Humphrey replied:

“We did one of those last year, Minister. We found we needed about another 500 people.”

The White Paper promises that a £2.6 billion Shared Prosperity Fund is to be established. But for some of us, the route to shared prosperity is through less Government – not billions more on gimmicks and bureaucracy.

There is a contradiction for a Conservative Government to be pursuing a socialist agenda and this is simply the latest example. The kindest thing one can say is that there is little of substance in the white paper. Lots of distant targets which, if they happen to be met, will be no thanks to anything proposed in this document. Plenty of detail about what had already been announced. With nothing much to say, it goes on for 332 pages – an old Whitehall ruse.

Yet the flawed thinking is still a source of dismay. Levelling up should only mean making the poor richer – not in any way holding back the rich. Yet we have continual references to “closing the gap”. In the “missions” it sets itself for 2030, the white paper does include the aim that all areas make some upward progress, but the emphasis is on greater equality. By that measure, if the rich areas made only derisory progress, while the poor areas did very slightly better, the Government will have succeeded (in the unlikely event that anyone in 2030 remembers to check).

Yet if the poor areas have made huge progress, but the rich areas greater progress, then the Government will have failed. The targets include a reduction in crime, increased living standards, longer life expectancy, and increased “well being” – the last rather vague measure to rely on opinion polling by the Office of National Statistics.

A further absurdity of these crude measures is the focus on geography generalisations rather than human reality. So if someone rich in Liverpool gets a pay rise and someone poor in Surrey gets a drop in income that would help the Government meet its equality targets.

The economist, Peter Bauer, said that foreign aid is a mechanism by which “poor people in rich countries are taxed to support the lifestyles of rich people in poor countries”. That approach would seem to encapsulate the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.

Most dubious of all is the claim in the White Paper to champion the cause of the young (and not so young) who are priced out of home ownership. It says:

“By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas.”

It notes:

“House prices in England and Wales are now almost 7.7 times higher than incomes, up from 3.6 in 1997, putting homeownership out of reach for far too many young people. This is not just a problem in London – affordability has significantly worsened in all regions over the last two decades.”

But how does it propose sorting out the problem?

“The UK Government will continue working towards our ambition of delivering 300,000 new homes per year in England by the mid-2020s.”

Leave aside the notion from the Soviet era that the Government should decide how many homes are needed, anymore than set a five-year plan for tractor production. If planning restrictions were lifted there would be a huge increase in supply – far more than the miserable 300,000 quota. That would allow prices to fall significantly. If the number of new homes is kept down to 300,000 a year, then house prices will continue to rise ahead of incomes and the Government should be honest enough to admit that this is their policy objective.

The White Paper says nothing about the growing number of children in care. Yet that is the group most disadvantaged in terms of life chances. A determination to increase adoption rates and reduce the number stuck in the care system would be a genuine priority to level up opportunity. It is a personal issue for Gove that he has spoken eloquently about. So why isn’t it in the “missions”?

What’s most dismaying about all this is that Gove should be the author. After his championing of transformational school reforms when Education Secretary, and his brave decision to back Brexit in the EU referendum, he now seeks to ingratiate himself with bien-pensants of the Leftist establishment – who will never forgive him anyway.

Gove once attacked the education blob as:

“The new Enemies Of Promise are a set of politically motivated individuals who have been actively trying to prevent millions of our poorest children getting the education they need.”

Yet when you look behind the curtain of jargon and gimmickry, this White Paper is a missed opportunity. It misses the Conservative values – wealth creation, home ownership, a stable family to grow up in – which are essential for any tangible advance. The terrible irony is this has left Gove as the biggest enemy of promise, of them all.