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Northern dailies unite to warn next PM: ‘Don’t turn your back on us’

Newspapers across the North of England have run the same front page warning the next Prime Minister not to “turn your back” on their region.

A total of 15 regional print and digital titles have made the united plea this morning after Tory leadership contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss fought it out in a televised debate last night.

Newspapers running the splash this morning include Newsquest dailies the Bolton News, Bradford Telegraph & Argus, Lancashire Telegraph, Northern Echo, Oldham Times and York Press.

Reach titles the Grimsby Telegraph, Hull Daily Mail, Manchester Evening News, Teesside Gazette and Newcastle-based dailies The Chronicle and The Journal also went with the same cover.

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Rob Parsons, editor of Reach digital title the Northern Agenda, wrote in an accompanying editorial run across participating titles: “For the thousands of families across the North still held back by non-existent transport and a lack of jobs and skills, the idea that their communities are being ‘levelled up’ must seem almost laughable.

“So with Boris Johnson now on his way out and Michael Gove abruptly sacked, it’s all the more alarming to read multiple reports in the national press that the agenda could be junked by the next PM.

“Though the two remaining hopefuls, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, have made many of the right noises about their commitment to the cause, it’s been far from a top priority in a debate largely focused on tax cuts and culture wars.

“Reports suggest that Tory strategists are worried the perception of favouring neglected parts of the North will cost them as they defend seats in the affluent South-East from the Liberal Democrats.

“But bridging the gap between London and the neglected regions is a job of decades and – if the example of East and West Germany is anything to go by – trillions, rather than billions of pounds.

“The aim is not just to apply a sticking plaster to the problems communities face in 2022 but to address why Northern towns and cities are more likely to face them.”

The titles have asked five “key questions” of the two candidates:

– What will you do to make sure the commitments made to the North by your predecessors as Prime Minister are kept?

-The average worker in the North is 50pc less productive than one in London, what will you do to address this widening gap?

-What will you do to address spiralling rates of child poverty in parts of Northern England?

– How far will you go to give Northern leaders control over education and skills, transport and health budgets currently held by Westminster, and will you give them more powers to raise or lower taxes to boost local economies?

– Will you retain a government department responsible for tackling regional inequalities with a Cabinet-level Minister for whom this is their main job?

The titles will publish their responses later this week.

Rob added: “As Conservative members in the North of England weigh up who to choose as the next Prime Minister, they should be looking not just at who might help them win the next election but their vision for the North.”

“And with Labour making the case that they’re now the true party of levelling up, we’ll be asking them to answer too.”