THE TORIES have come a long way since William Hague’s landslide defeat in 2001 – and Michael Howard’s belief, shortly before the 2005 election, that the North was not key to the party’s fortunes.
Now Lord Howard, he could not have been more mistaken and Boris Johnson’s 80-seat majority, exceeding all expectations, shows that no part of the country should ever be written off, or dismissed, by London-based leaders.
And it makes the intervention of Lord Hague all the more telling as Mr Johnson, and his Cabinet, look to honour the pre-election promises that persuaded traditional Labour voters to vote Tory in such numbers.
Just like those families who backed Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the North is a region of aspiration – sweeping generalisations on ‘class’ can do a disservice – and the Tories did tap into this agenda alongside Brexit. But Lord Hague, who grew up in the Rother Valley which now has a Tory MP in Alexander Stafford, makes a key point when he says that skills rivals transport for importance.
Two issues that are the cornerstones of the Power Up The North campaign being run by The Yorkshire Post, and newspapers across the region, he has now warned the Government: “Your problem, if you’re sitting in Rotherham, is not just that you can’t travel quickly to an international business based in Manchester. It is also that you probably don’t have the right expertise when you get there.”
It is argument which re-enforces the case for joined-up government, and a clear focus on the North, when Mr Johnson begins to reconfigure his government in the New Year.