The private sector banker who former chancellor George Osborne brought into government to push the Northern Powerhouse, Lord Jim O’Neill, has resigned.
Former Goldman Sachs financier and commercial secretary to the Treasury O’Neill was also leading a review into antimicrobial resistance and cited the end of this project in his resignation letter. However, he did not give any specific reason for leaving.
Reports have indicated that he had concerns about Hinkley Point C and the Northern Powerhouse, though his resignation letter disputed this.
Lord O’Neill wrote: “I joined the government with the AMR [antimicrobial resistance] review already well developed in terms of our ideas and influence, but entered office, believing its goals would be enhanced by being a minister.
“I primarily joined however for the specific purpose of helping deliver the Northern Powerhouse, and to help boost our economic ties with key growing economies around the world, especially China and India and other rapidly emerging economies.
“The case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention. I am leaving knowing that I can play some role supporting these critical initiatives as a non-governmental person.”
Prime minister Theresa May wrote in response: “You have made a significant contribution to driving forward the government’s work on delivering growth beyond the South-East through the Northern Powerhouse and on promoting stronger economic links with emerging economies, including China and India. You have laid important foundations in these areas and the government will build on them.”
Labour’s shadow minister without portfolio Jon Ashworth said the resignation was a “huge blow” for the prime minister.
“A much respected minister has not only walked out on her after just three months, but even more damning, has abandoned the Tory Party altogether over her divisive lurch to the right in attempting to bring back grammar schools. If Theresa May had any sense she would ditch this regressive policy now.
“What’s more, his reported concerns over Hinkley and the Northern Powerhouse is yet more evidence of a prime minister whose basic competence is more and more being called into question.”