Delighted to bring Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to Leeds for Tory leader hustings - Andrew Stephenson

Tonight we kick off a nationwide tour right here in Leeds.

And while a political tour may not get the pulses racing in the same way as say, a Kaiser Chiefs one would, this nevertheless could not be more important.

We will be holding hustings with Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak and our members right across the countryand all four nations of the UK to choose the next leader of the Conservative party and our next Prime Minister.

It is a responsibility we take with the utmost seriousness.

And I’m delighted we’re starting this tour here in Yorkshire.

Earlier this year we chose to open a brand new headquarters in the centre of Leeds, giving us a new base closer to the millions of voters who elected us with an 80-seat majority at the last General Election.

Our new staff live here too, all a sign of our commitment to delivering on our levelling-up agenda and ensuring we spread opportunity to all, no matter where you live.

Key teams delivering our Conservative leadership election vote are now based at our Leeds HQ and I will be spending more of my time here in our Leeds office than in London during this leadership election. Just as I used to spend time working from the Department of Transport’s Leeds office in my previous job as a Transport Minister, where I was pleased to deliver on

Leeds station’s new Platform Zero and announce £15m in government funding to build new stations for the White Rose Centre and Thorpe Park.

Since opening, our Leeds office has gone from strength to strength. And so has our party’s strength and presence.

From Dewsbury to Don Valley, Scunthorpe to Grimsby, at the last General Election we had the most Conservative MPs elected in Yorkshire and the Humber in recent memory.

And they’ve helped this Conservative government get on with important work.

Whether that be multi-million pound investments in everything from the building of a major waterfront extension in Doncaster to finishing the Culture and Leisure Quarter in Rotherham, to hundreds of millions for new state-of-the-art adult and children hospitals at Leeds General Infirmary, recruiting an extra 1,310 police officers in the region or the £422m from our new Towns Fund for investment in 18 towns across Yorkshire, from Scarborough to Shipley.

And I can tell The Yorkshire Post readers that our first hustings in Leeds sold out in just three days, an incredible response. Now as a proud Lancastrian, I won’t be able to go as far as saying this is ‘God’s own county’, but it is certainly one with increasing strength for our party.

I could also not be prouder of the strong slate of candidates we’ve had for this contest.

With four female candidates and six candidates with ethnic minority heritage, this was the most diverse range of candidates for any leadership election in British history, and all there on talent and merit.

And unlike other parties like Labour, without a quota or all something shortlist in sight. It’s the Conservative party that is the true home of opportunity, aspiration and meritocracy.

And we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk.

In Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, we also have two candidates with strong ties to Yorkshire.

Liz grew up and went to school in Leeds and Rishi is the MP for Richmond, North Yorkshire, succeeding William Hague.

I’m sure they’ll both have something to say on the role of Yorkshire in their positive plans for the country at tonight’s event.

You can see what they have to say yourselves by visiting our website, where we’ll be streaming the first Leeds hustings online.

While as the Conservative party chairman I must stay neutral in this contest, I know in Liz and Rishi we have two brilliant candidates who can tackle the pressing issues facing us and take our country forwards.

And come September 5 we will either have our third female Prime Minister or our first Prime Minister from Asian heritage, and that’s something to celebrate in a modern dynamic Britain.