THe OUTCOME of the General Election in West Yorkshire will decide the Conservatives’ fate, William Hague has said.
Mr Hague, leading a key seats battle in Yorkshire yesterday as an elder statesman for the Tories, said the closest contest since 1992 will mean seats in the region are expected to play a vital role in deciding the election outcome.
The former Foreign Secretary, who is stepping down from the Richmond constituency he has held in North Yorkshire since 1989, spoke to voters in Pudsey and Keighley before heading to Halifax, where the Conservatives are aiming to take the seat from Labour.
Mr Hague’s battleground tour came as David Cameron rolled out a renewed focus on education, with mixed results. The Prime Minister sought to publicise a Tory plan to force resits on those who fail English and maths before secondary school. The announcement though was somewhat overshadowed by the reaction of Lucy, aged six, who decided to give up reading The Paper Bag Princess with him.
Mr Cameron will move the debate on to training today with a promise to create three million more apprenticeships over the next Parliament. The election task facing Mr Cameron and Mr Hague in West Yorkshire was underlined by a new poll of marginal seats released by Lord Ashcroft, with Pudsey now tied between Labour and the Conservatives.
Mr Hague said there was no escaping the fact the Tories must defend all their West Yorkshire seats before going on to win in constituencies such as Halifax.
He said: “West Yorkshire is really important, it always is in General Elections, but this one is absolutely no exception, it will be vital to us. This is a crucial General Election in terms of the direction the country goes in. People’s votes have never mattered more in West Yorkshire than they matter in this election.
“We have a strong record to defend, 129,000 more people in employment in Yorkshire and the Humber than there were five years ago, and a great many of those are in West Yorkshire.
“It is a tough campaign, it is clearly a close election, it can go either way. These sort of campaigns are tough, but most importantly is that this is a really big choice. A bigger choice than any election in a long time, certainly since 1992. Are we going to carry on with the policies which have turned this country around or go back to where we were five years ago?
“Of course it is a crucial decision people are making and West Yorkshire is going to play a key role in making that decision for the country.”
Many of the seats in West Yorkshire are key Labour targets including Bradford East, Dewsbury and Pudsey, which the party must take if they are to stand a chance of forming the next Government.
In the latest push to shore up the Conservative vote, Mr Cameron will today announce 16,000 new apprenticeships. The Prime Minister is set to visit a Morrisons store, with the firm taking on 9,000 new apprentices.
Mr Cameron said: “We want apprenticeships to be level-pegging with a university degree giving millions more people the dignity of work and a regular pay packet. We’ve already created 2.2m apprenticeships since 2010, but a future Conservative government is committed to opening up three million more places.”
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...