Former Tory candidate Jonathan Scott has written for today’s Yorkshire Post about the Conservative Party’s "northern challenge." He believes that the actions taken so far are an inadequate response to the fact that "Tory MPs are so few in number in the North that they would struggle to fill a London taxi." Although Mr Scott’s characterisation is exaggerated (David Cameron’s three most senior ministers represent northern seats) he does offer two important observations:
The new northern board: "It was instructive that [David Cameron] chose William Hague to head the new Northern Board. The Shadow Foreign Secretary is, without doubt, a very decent man and a hugely talented politician. But he is also a very busy man, and the task and responsibility of restoring the party’s fortunes in the North should not have been entrusted to a full-time politician who also has literary and speaking ambitions… The fact that the Northern Board will meet only quarterly speaks volumes of the lack of urgency with which Central Office regards the crisis facing the party in the northern reaches. What is needed is a daily, hourly, assault on the key constituencies, re-building shattered constituency associations, identifying key local issues that connect with the voters, establishing links, bonds of trust, between the party and the local and regional media."
Northern voters want more than climate change: "The people of the North do care about climate change. On the east coast, they have grown familiar with the constant depredations of the sea, eating away at their homes and their livelihoods. For them, the prospect of rising sea levels is terrifying. Cities such as York know only too well how heavy rainfall and storms can spell personal and financial ruin in the form of floods. So the softer, climate change message is a good one, even here in the North. But it should not be the only message or the primary message. Like it or not, immigration, crime, welfare fraud, the dependency culture, and the politics of identity are much more pressing issues for prospective Tory voters."