‘How Boris Johnson could regenerate the North’

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs couldn’t be further away from the rural environment, or the food from farms it oversees.

It sits in plush offices on prime Westminster real estate with its food sources a McDonald’s and Pizza Express.

That could be about to change.

Boris Johnson wants to move Government departments to the North of England to “level up the country”.

And Defra is fave to be one of the first.

The Yorkshire Dales would suit nicely. That’ll give it a taste of rural affairs.

The House of Lords could join it, and some suitable waste ground near York railway station has reportedly been identified.

Neither would regenerate the North, but disrupting cushy civil service life and peeing off peers would be symbolically significant.

To the delight of northern MPs, and some grumbling from southern ones, the whole 320-mile HS2 line got the go ahead last week, despite the original 2015 eye-watering £55billion cost now heading towards £106billion.

Fifteen million northerners should at last get a proper train service as HS2 is integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail to provide not just North-South links but East-West ones, too.

That’s if you can wait till 2040 for all the work to be done.

There are fears the Leeds leg could yet be dropped, which is a pity because it would mean digging up Bradford.

Don’t get me wrong, Bradford wants to be dug up so it gets a new station to fill the hole.

But South Yorks and the East Midlands might not get anything.

There are suspicions Manchester mayor Andy Burnham would not be unhappy as long as he gets the best for his City even if that means throwing his neighbours under…ahem…a bus.

Talking of buses, Boris’s £5billion green transport plan means there will be another 4,000, most in the northern countryside.

Sounds a double-decker of a plan? Er…not when you consider London alone has 8,600.

And they’re not enough to replace the 134 million miles of routes lost in the last decade, especially in the North West and Wales.

That’s the equivalent of spinning round the world 5,000 times.

Anyway, all this is the “jam tomorrow” of Alice through the Looking Glass.

Or in the case of Boris’s looking glass, “no traffic jams tomorrow”.

That’s the problem with the PM’s promises.

He talks a good game but delivering on them is quite another matter.

Remember how he promised to get Brexit done by October 31st, do or die?

He neither did nor died.

And with sinister sidekick Dominic Cummings in the train driver’s seat these promises may never be fulfilled. Cummings hates HS2.

He hates Sajid Javid, too, which is why he engineered the Chancellor’s departure, overriding the PM’s pledge to keep him.

Boris makes eye-catching promises, such as of a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Yet most experts agree a tunnel would be better.

Tory MP David Morris tells me he’s been waiting two years for a £40million Eden North biosphere in his Morecambe, Lancs constituency but still has no confirmation it will be in next month’s Budget as promised.

Newbie Tory MPs who unexpectedly won seats by taking bricks out of Labour’s Red Wall say there must be visible progress within the next five years if they are to keep them.

Boris promises them a slice of £80billion in structural funds. But as yet no sign of structures.

If the PM means to help the North he could develop two million metres of unused space in derelict Victorian textile mills.

The Pennines alone has 500 of these, enough to provide120,000 flats.

As the engines of the original northern powerhouse it would be only fitting for them to fuel the new one.

All it needs is for Boris to give the word. And keep it.

NHS dithers between privacy or profit

The NHS could do a lot with £10billion.

It could build 16, fully equipped, 400-bed hospitals for starters, or carry out 100,000 heart transplants.

And according to a Parliamentary answer, £10billion is the market value of the medical records held for 65 million patients on the NHS database.

Despite Boris Johnson’s promise that the NHS is not on the table in future US trade talks, I suspect Donald Trump is already eyeing this goldmine up.

If Big Pharma had access to one of the world’s largest health databases it could make a killing – or save lives, depending on your point of view.

There are reports that the NHS is already flogging the medical data of millions of NHS patients to foreign drugs companies having misled people into believing the information is “anonymous”.

If you don’t want your data used for research your must “opt out” at your GP surgery.

Your rights would be better protected if the system was “opt in”.

On one hand this money could help transform the NHS.

On the other the question for us patients is how we feel about sharing such personal, sensitive and potentially embarrassing information?

But without such a trade-off Boris may not get his trade deal.

All because the lady loves

London mayoral candidate Rory Stewart is inviting himself into the capital’s homes promising to bring a sleeping bag and box of chocolates – like the Milk Tray man only weirder.

Mouse in the House

Former Immigration minister Caroline Nokes tweeted her video of an illegal migrant running through the Commons Portcullis House kitchens – a mouse.

The Twitter handle, Mouse in Portcullis House, instantly appeared.

The scavenging rodent did not seem to mind his antics recorded.

What bothered him was: “She didn’t get my good side.”

Don's not so flexible friend

Lib Dem peer Don Foster learned the hard way gift cards aren’t worth the plastic they’re printed on.

Not only is the unused value of the wretched things £300million but Don tells me his £40 One4all card is now only worth £25.60.

He discovered in the small print that after 18 months an inactive balance charge of 90p a month is subtracted.

Business minister Lord Duncan described this as: “Pernicious and unpleasant.”

In which case, minister, damn well do something about it.

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