Penny Mordaunt has reiterated her commitment to Boris Johnson’s levelling-up vision as the Tory leadership race intensified.
Ms Mordaunt, who is seeking to regain momentum in the race to replace Mr Johnson, backed the levelling-up agenda pioneered by the outgoing Prime Minister.
Other would-be successors to Mr Johnson are reported to be cooler on the high-investment policy, with Rishi Sunak backer and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps forced to insist the former chancellor is a “huge fan of levelling up”.
Ms Mordaunt claims to be the candidate Labour fears most and the one best placed to succeed in a general election.
Ahead of hustings by the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, she said she would quadruple the number of degree apprenticeships available in the North and double the number of skills boot camps.
She also committed to delivering Northern Powerhouse Rail alongside HS2, while pledging that 50% of new hydrogen capacity will be built in the North.
Ms Mordaunt said she would support the extraction of clean energy from coalfields, a proposal backed by Lee Anderson, Tory MP for Ashfield, part of the so-called “red wall” of former Labour heartlands.
“My economic plan will boost competition and growth up and down the country, creating the jobs of the future and enabling the country to live well,” she said.
“We were elected on a manifesto to deliver levelling up, and I remain committed to delivering on the promises we made to the country.”
She also promised to “get tougher” on grant conditions, saying she will use development corporations more when “local authorities block plans for political reasons and fail to deliver on promises made to the electorate”.