THE Tory party’s understanding of key issues here has evolved since Michael Howard – the then Opposition leader – said it was possible to win power without making electoral inroads in the North.
A comment which damaged the party’s reputation before the 2005 election, the fact that Boris Johnson has appointed a Northern Powerhouse Minister to his Cabinet shows the extent to which the Conservatives have been forced to change policy.
And while the new Prime Minister travel to the North – within three days of taking office – to promise to build a new railway between Leeds and Manchester, and turbo-charge the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda, he has still to win the trust of the 15 million people who live and work here.
This comes after an opinion poll – carried out by Survation on behalf of The Yorkshire Post – revealed that fewer than three out of 10 people in Yorkshire have faith in his plans to improve transport links.
A residual legacy of David Cameron, and then Theresa May, backtracking on specific promises that Tory Ministers made to commuters here in the 2015 and 2017 general election campaigns respectively, it shows the size of the task facing Mr Johnson – even before Brexit is factored into the equation – if he is to have a chance of forming a majority government.
And while the survey results do not make encouraging reading for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the onus is on Mr Johnson – as Prime Minister and Tory leader – to study the conclusions and decide how best to answer the trust question.
As well as giving Transport for the North the powers enjoyed by its counterparts in London, the PM could also pass a law committing the Government to increasing transport and infrastructure investment at a faster rate here, than other parts of the country, for the next decade. It would be a welcome start.