The phrase is Tim Montgomerie’s. He used to deploy it roughly as follows. Yes, politics means making choices. But they doesn’t always have to be either/or. The Conservatives can have immigration control and international development. Green growth and more fracking. Same-sex marriage and transferable tax allowances.
The new majority Tory Government won’t necessarily smile on these examples. But it will want to follow the principle. To this end, ConservativeHome is reviving The Politics Of And. In one series, we will examine Securing the Majority. In another, Growing the Majority. Boris Johnson will want to do both.
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The optimism of this series about the potential for Conservative growth knows no bounds. But even we draw a line at Liverpool.
The Party has put quite a bit of effort in over the years to win votes in the city. There was a push when David Cameron was Leader of the Opposition, for example. Nothing much came of trying to win support at a local level, and build up support on local councils, in the time-honoured manner of political parties everywhere.
The legend that Margaret Thatcher was responsible has been dealt with on this site by David Jeffrey (No, Thatcher didn’t cause the Conservative decline in Liverpool). He identifies instead a significant fall from the 1970s through the Thatcher period and beyond – fingering in particular the decline of Protestantism as an identifying force and the rise of the Liberal Democrats.
But at any rate, anti-Tory prejudice radiates out from Liverpool into Merseyside more widely. Last week, Labour held Wirral West, Esther McVey’s seat until the 2015 election, thus maintaining its grip on the region: that’s to say, St Helens, Knowsley, the city itself, the Wirral and Sefton Central (“How do we explain the rural, affluent seat that never votes Tory (Sefton Central),” James Kanagasooriam has tweeted.)
Perhaps the Party should be looking to Greater Manchester instead. Here are some seats in the area together with their Labour majorities:
- Oldham East and Saddleworth – 1,499.
- Warrington North – 1,509
- Stalybridge and Hyde – 2,946.
- Worsley and Eccles South – 3,219.
- Ashton under Lyne – 4,263.
- Denton and Reddish – 6,147.
- Bolton South East – 7,598.
These seats tend to cluster around the edges of Manchester . We don’t have access to a full demographic breakdown yet, but suspect that they will share a relatively high white working class to ethnic minority/student ratio.
Some former Labour constituencies in the area have already gone – such as Leigh, and Heywood & Middleton. The Conservatives also hold a further ring of seats round the north, east and south of the city.
This balance re-raises the familiar cities v towns debate, and possible solutions to the competing pulls between the two (Sam Bowman and our columnist Ryan Bourne have written about these for this site.)
After all, such towns and places as Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Hazel Grove and Trafford would not like to be thought of as adjuncts of Manchester.
The same pattern holds elsewhere. We alight on Greater Manchester only because it is relatively near Liverpool – and thus shows up how different, in civic political and cultural terms, one nearby place can be from another.