George Osborne has launched a new think tank to push forward his Northern Powerhouse scheme after hinting how Theresa May appeared to "wobble" over the idea when she was elected prime minister. Osborne, who was sacked from his role as chancellor by May, said he will not follow David Cameron in leaving politics and will stay on the backbenches to keep his flagship policy going.
Speaking at the Manchester launch of the new think tank, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, today (Friday 16 September) Osborne said: "If we are going to end the North-South divide, we do need a partnership with national government.
"But at the same time, we have to understand that we can't just rely on Whitehall 200 miles away to make all the decisions for us."
Think tank supporters include Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, the Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and Manchester University president Dame Nancy Rothwell.
There were concerns that the Northern Powerhouse policy, which was launched by Osborne in 2014, would be shelved after May became PM in July and Osborne was sacked from his cabinet role.
However, the MP for Tatton has insisted he will see out his ambition to bring the economies in the north of England closer in line with those of London and the South East.
Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, Labour MPs in Manchester and Sheffield, warned May that pulling the plug on the Northern Powerhouse would be "as big a betrayal as the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher pulled the plug on our industries".
Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think, to be honest, there was a little bit of a wobble when we had the new administration about whether they were still committed to the concept of the Northern Powerhouse.
"I'm the first to say we need economic development across the whole of the country. I sweated blood to get a mayor for Birmingham. That was one of the most difficult things I pulled off in office. I'm passionate about building out the engine of the West Midlands.
"But in the North of England, there is a particular opportunity because the cities are close together. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership that we are creating will be led by the business community, it will have Labour and Conservative civic leaders involved in it."
Osborne also announced that Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, will be brought in to advise the new mayors being created in city regions including Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield.
Osborne added: "The North-South divide has been a problem in our country for decades. Governments of all colours tried with good faith to address it but the fact that it remains a challenge doesn't mean it's unsolvable as a problem.
"The economy of the North still lags behind the economy of the South. There is nothing to say that is inevitable. There is nothing that says the North of England shouldn't be as prosperous, indeed even more prosperous than the South of England."