LEVELLING UP is still a jelly-like concept, all things to all politicians for them to mould to fit their newest announcement as they like.

There are no targets and so no ways to judge whether this much talked about soundbite has achieved anything. Should it be about raising life expectancy – you’ll live three years longer in the south-east than in the North East; you’ll live about seven years longer healthily – which is a long term turnaround taking decades, or is it just about transplanting a few hundred Treasury jobs out of London and saying “there, job done”?

In this week’s reshuffle Michael Gove has been given the job of Communities Secretary with “cross-government responsibility for levelling up”. This is good. He has a reputation as a thinker and a reformer, not just as a nightclub dancer.

Perhaps he is the man with the forensic ability to work out what the attractive-sounding slogan means and to create some deliverable objectives that will make a difference on the ground in the red wall seats.

He also has a reputation for getting things done.

At education, with the help of an adviser called Dominic Cummings, he really did shake things up, creating free schools – one of the first of which was at Gilesgate, on the edge of Durham, involving Cummings’ mother. It collapsed after two years, leaving the children in tears. To teachers he became a “bogeyman”, and he was moved on.

Perhaps the omens are not so good…

But Gove is a big hitter, and his appointment does show that “levelling up” is a Government priority. Only a big hitter can get the weight of the full Cabinet behind the concept, and there have been signs that the slogan is beginning to sink in the southern, traditionally Tory shires.

And little wonder. In 2019, for instance, transport spending per head was £511 in North Yorkshire, £519 in the North-East and £3,636 in London – and this gap has been consistent for the last decade. The ippr thinktank estimates that if transport spending had been fair in the last 10 years, the north would have received £66bn extra. How will Conservative MPs with small majorities in the south feel if their areas don’t get investment while Conservative MPs with small majorities in the Tees Valley see real progress on an expensive river crossing?

For all the prominence that Gove can bring to the role, he is going to be a busy fellow – he’s not going to be full time on the levelling up job.

His time is going to be shared with clearing up the enormous legacy of Grenfell and hitting the Government’s target of building 300,000 new houses every year. Indeed, his appointment has been praised in housing circles in the same way it has been welcomed by those interested in “levelling up”. They say it shows that the Government is finally serious about reforming the planning system so that more homes can be built. But, for Gove, it is a huge task destined for conflict – everyone wants houses to be built, but no one wants them to be built on their greenfields or dogwalking space.

Oh, and he is still tasked with saving the Union, with stopping Scotland from breaking away from England. The SNP now hurtling towards a second referendum, so that too is a task destined for conflict.

The red wall seats of the North East will look at a reshuffled Michael Gove and think how good it is to see a high profile appointee taking on the “levelling up” agenda, especially as this reshuffle is about preparing for an election in two years when real results need to be visible.

But it would have showed real serious intent if he had become a full time minister for the north to make real progress before the political bandwagon moves on to other pressing concerns.