Prime Minister Boris Johnson was highly visible in Yorkshire during the election campaign, from delivering milk in Guiseley to handling fish in Grimsby.
His party gained nine seats from a combination of Pennine and industrial towns and former coalfields, many of which have placed their trust in the Conservatives for the first time.
As MPs are sworn in, reverting to politics as usual is not an option. Future trade negotiations are inevitably going to dominate political debate in the year ahead. But voters are unlikely to tolerate the paralysis on domestic reforms that has characterised the last three years.
A glance at the new electoral map of Yorkshire and Humber shows why. Ten years ago all the seats south of the Humber were red, both the traditional marginals of Cleethorpes and Brigg and Goole and the then-safe Labour seats of Great Grimsby and Scunthorpe. All four are now blue.
At the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation, our analysis with Hanbury Strategy identified that voters on low incomes were increasingly likely to switch their votes and more likely to turn out to vote. The research also showed that voters on a low income were less tribally loyal than had previously been thought. We identified a list of battleground seats where these voters represented a significant proportion which could swing the result.
The list included Wakefield, Scunthorpe, Great Grimsby, Penistone and Stockbridge, Keighley, Don Valley and Colne Valley, all of which switched from Labour to Conservative last week.
Nationwide, 50 of the 59 seats which switched directly from red to blue were places where the numbers of low-income voters were enough to be decisive. JRF has consistently argued all of the political parties should be taking the interests and concerns of voters on low incomes more seriously. Too many people caught in a rising tide of poverty have feel overlooked, unheard and underinvested in.
Priority number one for the new Johnson administration has to be delivering meaningful change for the people and places who need it most. With a strong majority, the Prime Minister now has the authority to introduce a much more ambitious programme of investment and transformation for places that have felt held back.
It is not right that so many families are struggling to stay afloat amid rising costs and flatlining incomes.
Our research shows that low-income voters want action on jobs, the cost of living, and levelling up the economy. More than anything, they want hope, opportunity and good prospects in the places they live in.
While the PM has acknowledged that many of these votes may only have been lent to his party, he also pledged to earn the trust of people whose trust in politicians has been worryingly low and has contributed to increasingly volatile voting among workers on low incomes in particular.
The PM would do well to listen to this newspaper’s Power Up The North campaign as a way to do this: by making serious investment in our economy so we can create good jobs and unlock opportunities, create a skilled workforce and ensure everyone in our region benefits from prosperity.
During the run-up to the election, the parties attempted to outbid one another to make spending commitments to the North and the Midlands. The ending of tough public spending will be welcomed by many. But that new-found investment needs to reach people on the lowest incomes, unlocking potential and harnessing a new era of regional devolution to drive economies that benefit all of society.
Inspiration can be taken from one of Yorkshire’s finest, our founder Joseph Rowntree, who demonstrated that at the heart of good business is a social conscience that creates decent jobs on good wages, and affordable homes for those who need them.
Having been lent the support of voters struggling to make ends meet and in towns which have been locked out of prosperity, “getting Brexit done” will not be sufficient to hold on to their backing and waning trust. Delivering fish and milk need to be seen as more than election campaign photo stunts.
Now, Boris Johnson must deliver much more for people across our region, and there is little time to waste. Over to you, Prime Minister.
Claire Ainsley is executive director of the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation