THE decision of the Tory party to unveil last year’s election manifesto in Halifax was supposed to mark a sea-change in the party’s fortunes in the North – and forge a new relationship with all those who live and work here.
If only this was so. Not only did it emerge that the mill town was an after-thought because the party had no clear plan to launch its policy prospectus but the Conservatives ended up losing two West Yorkshire seats – Keighley and Colne Valley – to Labour – when major electoral gains had been widely anticipated.
And then the Government’s total mishandling of transport policy, from Chris Grayling’s broken promises on electrification to the summer of chaos on the region’s railways, continues to reflect poorly on the Tory party’s standing here.
Yet, while it is welcome that both party chairman Brandon Lewis and Jake Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, have spent time in Yorkshire meeting local businesses, they have their work cut out if they’re to engineer a Conservative revival here.
For, while Labour is, in fairness, just as split as the Government when it comes to Brexit, there’s a growing sense that Ministers are not on the North’s side – the Tories have been in power for more than eight years now – and that families are still feeling the pinch after nearly a decade of austerity.
Just because senior Tories still maintain that Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable does not suffice. After all, he exceeded expectations in last June’s poll. And, with the electorate in a state of flux, voters here will see straight through any tokenism on the part of Mr Lewis and his colleagues.
Unless the Government strikes a new deal with Yorkshire, and matches this county’s ambitions over the Northern Powerhouse and devolution, the Tories will face a struggle if they’re to win those marginal seats that are also key to securing a Commons majority.