Christopher Pincher is the Member of Parliament for Tamworth.
The mainstream media narrative, encouraged by Labour and latterly the SNP, still parrots the mantra that the Conservative Party is a creature of the South and the shires. They have been doing it for years. They say Conservatives have been driven out of the North, have no presence in our larger cities, are absent from the Celtic fringe. This mantra is a myth. And it is a screen concealing an opportunity for the Party.
The 2015 General Election returned more Conservatives in Wales than at any time since the 1980s. In the North we won new seats in Greater Manchester (Cheadle and Hazel Grove) with clear majorities, and entrenched our support in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the North East (Pudsey, Elmet, Morecambe, Stockton South and so on) with bigger majorities and vote shares. We even knocked out Ed Balls, Labour’s very own Portillo moment. In Scotland, we have the same number of seats as Labour whilst the West Country turned bright blue. The Party even has close friends in Northern Ireland with the return of two UUP MPs. It is Labour that is now the pocket party, driven back into its city fortresses, coalfield heartlands and London. It looks less like the country it seeks to govern than at any time in its history.
Conservatives must now capitalise on these successes by re-asserting our status as the national party and “close the deal” with voters on the key doorstep issues that had cut-through in the campaign. We won votes in England direct from Labour because of the SNP threat, and votes back from UKIP because of our pragmatic promise on immigration. We convinced the undecided that our stewardship of the economy is a safer bet than letting rip with Miliband. There is also a slew of new support to be won from UKIP amongst those northern Labour heritage voters who liked the Kipper message on immigration and who have now left the Left.
If we deliver for them on these issues, allied to the continued provision of new and skilled jobs and a housebuilding programme that unblocks the logjam of planning around our bigger conurbations, we will encourage them to continue “island hopping” from Labour to UKIP to the Conservatives and form a new coalition of interest and support.
Our first hundred days must make, to borrow from the Prime Minster, a “big, open and comprehensive offer” to all these voters on fair constitutional changes that balance our British settlement; tough and implementable migration policies set out in our Manifesto, and a powerhouse plan for the Midlands as well as the North. If we make this offer quickly and clearly during the leadership vacuums in the Labour, UKIP (slowly imploding) and Liberal Democrat parties, we will set the agenda of the next five years for the rest to follow.
Douglas Hurd once said that governments come to power at different times in different departments – because not all policies, and the principles that underpin them, can be enacted at once. The 2010-15 Conservative-led government was all about fixing the economy. It succeeded. David Cameron and George Osborne won that argument and the focus of delivery can now broaden. They can come to power in new areas. This Conservative administration has the potential to be as game-changing in its impact on the country as the Thatcher government of 1983. In so doing, it can win a new community of support that will carry it through 2020 and beyond. Smart Labour people already know it. The Conservatives MPs returned on May 7th, including the class of 2015, must realise it too.