News | Thursday, 12th September 2019

Industrial policy faces uncertain future under Boris Johnson, according to new analysis

Future Economies Research Centre launches with study looking at possible economic policies of Conservative government

Defining Boris Johnson’s approach to economic policy is a difficult endeavour, say researchers
Defining Boris Johnson’s approach to economic policy is a difficult endeavour, say researchers

The distraction of Brexit and a new Prime Minister unwilling to commit to a long-term policy agenda is affecting the future of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, according to new analysis from Manchester Metropolitan University.

While the Conservative Party’s existing approach to industrial policy could survive the transition to a Boris Johnson-led government, a Cabinet filled with longstanding sceptics and figures with no record in advocating industrial policy will threaten its future direction, say researchers.

In a new policy paper, “Johnsonomics: British industrial policy (and beyond) from Brown to Boris”, academics have examined Boris Johnson’s record as Mayor of London, as well as the ministerial team he has assembled around him, to find clues as to what the UK might be able to expect from his government after Brexit. This could include large ‘vanity’ or infrastructure projects, similar to Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London, increased borrowing or cutting taxes for high earners, for example.

Government priorities

Dr Craig Berry, Reader in Political Economy at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “Defining Boris Johnson’s approach to economic policy is a difficult endeavour as there is a great deal that we do not know about his preferences on major economic issues.

“What is clear now is that industrial policy will become a much lower priority. There is some continuity with recent governments, but it is difficult to divorce Johnson’s appetite for large infrastructure projects and rhetoric on the Northern Powerhouse, for instance, from his own immediate political interests.”

The Industrial Strategy was a pillar of previous Prime Minister Theresa May’s economic agenda.

The importance of an industrial strategy to the UK’s prosperity is explained in the research paper, before an analysis of the pro-Brexit team that Boris Johnson has assembled in government paints a mixed view of the industrial strategy’s future, which is heavily dependent on the outcome of the next General Election. The paper was presented at the formal launch of Manchester Metropolitan’s Future Economies Research Centre.

Future Economies

The event, which took place at the University’s campus in Manchester today (September 12), brought together academic experts and senior practitioners to discuss local economic development, including the challenge of environmental change and building a sustainable industrial strategy.

A range of speakers from academia and industry debated key topics relating to the key areas of the Centre’s work and research with over 90 delegates in attendance.

Dr Berry added: “The Future Economies Research Centre is already responding to the policy challenges and the political and economic changes being brought about by Brexit, devolution and local industrial strategies.

“Our latest paper offers a first-look analysis of the premiership of Boris Johnson and outlines the importance of looking beyond Brexit and considering the vital policy challenges that lie ahead for the UK government.”

The full research paper, “Johnsonomics: British industrial policy (and beyond) from Brown to Boris”, is available here.

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