Earlier today the Yorkshire Post issued a fresh warning about the continuing uphill struggle that Conservatives face in the north. The YP’s report was based on research by the London School of Economics’ Tony Travers. Travers noted that the Tories remain very weak in northern counties like Yorkshire:
"If you look at the late 1970s at the end of the Callaghan government the Tories dominated Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees. They were in control of Leeds in their own right. But today they need the support of other parties to control Leeds and Bradford, and Westminster seats that they either already held or were marginal are now not even remote possibilities. Look at Leeds North West – it used to be held comfortably by the Conservatives with up to 45 per cent of the vote in the 1970s . Now they’re in third place, and you get a similar picture in other parts of Yorkshire and Humberside. Sheffield Hallam was a safe Tory seat and now it’s hard to see how they’re going to take that back."
Travers says that metropolitan Yorkshire is a principal reason why the Tories are struggling to get close to a winning 45% rating in opinion polls.
Earlier today Michael Bates of the Conservative Party’s Campaign North told ConservativeHome that the party understood the scale of the challenge and had already taken a number of steps to steadily rebuild:
- There are Shadow City Ministers in Sheffield, Leeds, Hull, Liverpool, Manchester, Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside.
- There has been a doubling of the professional staff in the North and the opening of new fully equipped campaign centres in Bradford, Salford and Newcastle.
- The Bradford Campaign Centre opened by Party Chairman, Caroline Spelman in September this year, is the most modern and best equipped political campaigning facility outside of London.
Michael Bates continued:
"Although Prof Travers was right to establish the scale of the task we made huge advances in the local elections in May of this year winning control in Blackpool, East Yorkshire and Chester. As a result the Conservatives now run more councils in the North West and Yorkshire than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined. That is a fantastic base from which to build. All this activity and resource going into the North has reinvigorated our voluntary support especially amongst the young. The Conservative Future branches in Leeds, Manchester, York, Lancaster and Durham are among the top branches in the country. Support amongst small to medium size businesses is flooding back to the Conservatives as they see how Labour has passively overseen the destruction of our manufacturing and engineering base and heaped burdens of regulation and tax on our entrpreneurs. To this must be added the huge dissatisfaction with Labour in the North of England. There is a pervasive view that they have taken the North for granted for too long and they are failing to respond to the issues which impact most on metropolitan areas, chiefly in ideas for tackling crime and anti-social behaviour. We are better prepared for the short-term in the North of England than at any time for a generation, but we are resourced for the long term."
Other dimensions of Campaign North were highlighted on ConservativeHome in September.