Why the North will be where Boris Johnson is handed an early election Christmas present - or a lump of coal

The General Election secured by Boris Johnson last night will see party leaders travel the length and breadth of the country - politicians will don hi-viz jackets in miscellaneous factories, pose with confused schoolchildren, and be photographed at hospitals they had never previously heard of.

But the real battle will be held in the North, and could paint the picture of what the impact will be in the rest of the country.

Already the Tories have drawn up a list of 40 key seats they want to pour resources into, and they are mainly those in the North and Midlands which have large working class populations and small Labour majorities.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Think Keighley, where John Grogan has a majority of just 239 - the 7th most marginal Labour seat in the country. Or Rother Valley, where Sir Kevin Barron’s lead has taken a hit in recent years, now down to 3,882. Sir Kevin is standing down this election after 36 years, and the proof will be in the pudding as to whether voters supported him, or the party.

A Polling Station at Gargrave Village Hall. Photo: Simon Hulme

But this election won’t just be about party politics, but about Brexit, and it is no surprise that many of the towns on Johnson’s target list are Leave voting. It also won’t escape the eagle-eyed that many of those places have benefitted from the Government’s £3.6bn towns fund earlier this year. The PM previously dismissed this was an electioneering tactic.

Think tank Onward also recognised Rugby-league towns in the North would be where this battle is fought. But I’m not convinced by the reductionist assumption these towns are filled to the brim with a typically older, white, non-graduate male voter.

If pollsters and politicians took the time to visit Northern towns which haven’t just been left behind, but held back, they would find that while some of their assumptions ring true there is also pride, innovation, and cosmopolitanism than would surprise them.

But if you do look at that voter they’ve described, I think you’re more likely to find someone who voted Labour all their life, but could never vote Tory, so if anything their vote would go to the Brexit Party.

Also are play, however, are the young Tories in Yorkshire, who are making their names and campaigns known loudly. For Labour, they shouldn’t underestimate this vote.

Onward are right that those areas are where the election will be decided though, because the two major parties come so close, with the smaller parties splitting the difference. And Onward is also right that it will take more than appealing to Brexit votes will not be enough to flatter those in the North to vote for the Tories.