Power Up The North: 7 in 10 Northern 'red wall' voters back radical rebalance of the UK economy

Press release

Time to Power Up The North

  • Vast majority of northerners back the ‘Power Up The North’ campaign ran by key northern newspapers, Populus poll finds
  • 68% think the North would be more prosperous with more decision making regionally while 54% identify more strongly with 'the North' than 'England'
  • RSA/One Powerhouse calls for candidates to commit to creating “economic road maps” for England’s four ‘mega-regions’.  

Voters in the North of England 'red wall' electoral battleground strongly support radical measures to rebalance the UK economy, and will back whoever they think is most likely to deliver this in Thursday's election, a survey suggests.   

A Populus survey of voters in the North of England, commissioned by One Powerhouse, a consortium representing business, government and civil society figures and think-tank the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), reveals: 

  • 53% are more likely to vote for candidates who pledge more investment in the North 
  • 70% think the North gets a bad deal from government (only 5% don’t) 
  • Just 11% think the North gets its fair share of cash 
  • 32% think HS2 will benefit their area, while 43% think the same about 'HS3', also known as Northern Powerhouse Rail between major northern cities
  • 66% think the economy would be stronger if we had a regional strategy for economic growth  
  • 54% identify more closely with the North than with England  
  • 75% think there is a big difference between the north and other regions in England 
  • 61% support devolving the replacement for EU structural funds – the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund – after we are set to leave the EU. 

Northern voters – around a quarter of the UK’s population – will be critical in deciding the outcome of the next election, especially in the so-called ‘red wall’ of leave-leaning Labour-held seats which could swing to the Conservatives. 

The survey also finds clear support for the Power Up The North campaign’s demands, and seems to strongly support the aspirations of the NP11’s recently published Manifesto for the North. More than 50% support each of the campaign's calls, averaging at 69% overall support: 


Net agree

Deliver a fundamental shift in decision-making out of London, giving devolved powers and self-determination to people in the north   


Commit funding immediately to make Northern Powerhouse Rail a high speed link between large northern cities a national priority


Overhaul the region's road and rail network with devolved funding and powers to run local buses and trains    


Make the north of England the leading region for creating green jobs and being at the forefront of the low carbon economy            


Put full weight behind a bespoke Industrial Strategy for the north of England to enable every sector of the economy, from manufacturing to farming, to flourish        


Make additional investment available for the north's schools, colleges and universities to boost skills training



Set out a programme to build a new generation of social housing and affordable homes in the north


Accelerate investment in the north's digital infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and support creative industries              


Establish a special Northern Innovation Fund to support research and development in key sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing, Health Innovation, Energy, and Digital              


Commit that the government's 'shared prosperity fund', intended to replace EU structural funding, be fully devolved as a long-term investment...




One Powerhouse and The RSA will be publishing a report in the New Year that will call for all political parties to follow-up on this by creating four English mega-regions – in the North of England, the Midlands, the South West, and London & the South East – with the specific aim of boosting economic activity and fully realizing the potential of spatially based policy making.  


The One Powerhouse Consortium, supported by The Sir Hugh and Lady Ruby Sykes Charitable Trust, believes that a substantial part of the problem of regional inequality in the UK can be solved not just by money, but by the transformative potential of spatial planning. 

Spatial planning is the ‘where’ of decisions. It looks at a defined geographical area and makes an assessment of everything contained in that area – towns, cities, housing, schools, universities, roads, rails, airports, offices, factories, hospitals, energy sources, museums, parks and leisure activities - and makes a plan to develop those assets for the benefit of the people who live in that region, now and for the future. 

It is well understood that countries and regions around the world have used spatial planning to focus political will, economic activity and social reform to great effect. Notable examples include Germany’s Rhine-Ruhr, Holland’s Randstad and New York City’s Regional Plan Association. 

Board members of the One Powerhouse consortium include Sir Hugh and Lady Sykes, Lord Kerslake, Professor Philip McCann, Sir Brian Pomeroy, Richard Threlfall, Piers Warburton and Sarah Longlands, Director of IPPR North. 


Sir Hugh Sykes, chairman of the One Powerhouse Consortium, said: 

"It isn’t right that where you’re born should determine your life chances. 

“The party manifestos focus on new funding which is hugely welcome, but this is only one part of the puzzle. We also need to think about spatial planning – the ‘where' of decisions. 

"It is clear from this survey that voters see regional development as a key issue. Spatial Planning, used so effectively in other highly evolved economies, including New York, is a practical way to address this issue and the persistent inequalities that have dogged the regions of England for too long. It also has the potential to provide a solid basis for really ambitious economic development. Development that has opportunity and sustainability at its heart. 

“It is surely here that any Brexit dividend must be directed.” 


Ed Cox, director of public services and communities at the RSA, said: 

“Infrastructure and the North’s economic potential will rightly be at the forefront of northern voters’ minds on Thursday, and the Power Up The North campaign has been crucial to this success. 

“It is right that untapped northern potential is at the forefront of both political parties and voters’ minds, but infrastructure investment is only one part of the mix. We need a new northern economy, powered by northern citizens rather than Whitehall.  

“Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London all have their own economic roadmaps. England’s regions need the same – England itself is too large to really plan at the right level where a mix of local and regional expertise is needed.  

“This is why we need to see all political parties now commit to putting power as well as resources to the North.” 




For the full embargoed survey, please contact Ash Singleton, Head of Media & Communications, RSA: [email protected], 07799 737 970. 


Survey methodology: 

Populus conducted an online sample of 1,361 18+ adults who live in the North regions (North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humberside) aged 18+ between 27 November and 3 December 2019.  Data is weighted to be representative of the population of Great Britain. Targets for quotas and weights are taken from the National Readership Survey, a random probability F2F survey conducted annually with 34,000 adults.  Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by it rules.  For further information see http://www.britishpollingcouncil.org/   



The One Powerhouse Consortium, is an apolitical philanthropic project supported by The Sir Hugh and Lady Ruby Sykes Charitable Trust and committed to finding practical measures to address persistent inequalities and boost economic development in the regions of England. www.onepowerhouseconsortium.co.uk 

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is an independent charity which believes in a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future. 

Through our ideas, research and a 30,000 strong Fellowship, we are a global community of proactive problem solvers, sharing powerful ideas, carrying out cutting-edge research and building networks. We create opportunities for people to collaborate, influence, and demonstrate practical solutions to realise change. 

Our work covers a number of areas including the rise of the 'gig economy', robotics & automation; education & creative learning; and reforming public services to put communities in control. 


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