Hague says Tories are party of the north as he prepares to step down

Leader of the House William Hague
Leader of the House William Hague
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The Conservatives will enter the General Election with the most northern-friendly package of manifesto commitments of any party in recent decades, William Hague has said.

In a speech as he prepares to fight his final General Election battle the Richmond MP has insisted the Tories can be a presence again across England’s three northern regions.

Mr Hague, speaking as he prepares to step down after May 7, has insisted the party has an offer for the north unmatched by other parties.

He said: “Whatever the historic reasons are for our position in the north, the Conservative party at the coming election has the most coherent message for the north of England that any party has presented in decades, including Labour governments.

“With the Northern Powerhouse, the city deals, the regional growth fund, there is tremendous attention being given to the economy of the north of England. Over time that will be reflected in greater Conservative representation in the north.”

Mr Hague will lead campaign efforts in key seats across the North and Wales as he tries to overturn worrying poll ratings for the party.

The Leader of the House said: “Before the last election we had 19 MPs in the north of England, after the last election we had 42. We gained seats in West Yorkshire and Lancashire and we are in good shape to hold those seats, we will be going for more over the next couple of weeks.”

Mr Hague went on to deny suggestions that other northern cities were losing out as a result of increased devolution to Manchester, saying a multi-billion pound package for the city was the benefit of coming together with a new metro mayor.

He added: “I would encourage other cities to come forward and put to us plans for how they will engage with government so they can do the same thing. This devolution process is open to other cities but they have not all shown the same readiness to bring together a group of authorities that will agree with each other and make agreements with government.”

Mr Hague was speaking as the end of his career in politics rapidly approaches. Reflecting back on his time in office, Mr Hague said one of his proudest achievements was in securing the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act, but added there were areas he could have done more.

“You have to be radical at the beginning as a party leader,” Mr Hague said. “I wish in retrospect that on the inclusion of more women in our ranks of candidates and BME candidates we had gone further faster. We did quite a bit, but the lesson of 13 years of opposition is we should have done this even faster.”

He told reporters of his start in the Yorkshire politics: “Careers can be built on small events. In 1977 I was encouraged to go along to the meeting of the young Conservatives in the Rother Valley. I did and became the chairman, because no other young person showed up. As it said in the local press, this would be like heading the Liberal party in Shanghai