The Conservatives have prepared an election battle plan for Yorkshire which places Ed Balls’s seat among their biggest targets.
Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has told The Yorkshire Post that the region is “massively important” to the party and likely to be a region which holds the keys to Downing Street.
Many of the seats in Yorkshire are Labour targets, with the Tories facing a must-hold-on battle across several of the 2010 intake.
Among the seats the Tory chairman thinks are still within the party’s grasp, just, is Mr Balls’ Morley and Outwood seat in West Yorkshire, which the shadow chancellor won with a 1,101 majority in 2010.
“Yorkshire may in the end be the deciding factor, so how the region decides to vote really matters,” Mr Shapps said.
“When I look at the seats coming up, what do I think? First, quite a large number of seats we already hold, Dewsbury, Elmet and Rothwell, or Kris Hopkins seat or Stuart’s in Pudsey. We have some excellent MPs already.
“Then you have the seats such as Ed Ball’s where we have an excellent candidate.
“But I don’t want to win Morley and Outwood because it is Ed Ball’s seat, I want to win it because what we want to do is to give people there and Halifax next door, we want to give these people the opportunity to vote for more growth and jobs. Ed Balls can look after himself, what we want is a better deal for people in these seats.
“As with everything else, whether it’s gold medals or job creation, Yorkshire is at the heart of things for us. There are a lot of key seats, just like Morley and Outwood, Halifax many others. The big message from me to Yorkshire voters is you are in a position to decide the outcome of the most important election in a generation.”
Mr Shapps was speaking after a difficult few weeks in which he faced accusations that he had lied about having a second job when he started as an MP a situation Mr Shapps said was the result of a mix up in the dates and all declared officially.
The furore surrounding the row showed Mr Shapps’s relentless pushing of the Tory party message has for many on the left made him something of a hate figure, particularly online.
“I was the first MP on Twitter, I know what the internet can be like,” he said.
“I have a large Twitter following, but I use the term following loosely.”
He added: “We are out there spreading our message, talking about the future. That’s our position. By comparison what are Labour doing?
“They are saying they do not want to run a dirty campaign, but they are the ones who are out there working with the Guardian, specialising in muck raking, and the reason they are doing that is because they have not spent their time in the last four and half years since Ed Miliband has been leader working on their policies. So they are having to default to people politics, people bashing. I think that is what was going on the other week.
“Either you have something to say about policies and if you haven’t you go for personal attacks and that is what happened.”
If the election goes the way pollsters suggest, Mr Shapps might well face another coalition Government.
Asked if he was preparing for such an outcome, Mr Shapps suggested he may have made one bookmaker very happy.
“I put my money where my mouth is,” he said. “I put £50 on a majority Conservative. We need just 50 seats for a majority. 11,200 votes across those seats.
“Labour would have to win hundreds of thousands of votes across 70 seats for a majority. And they are in terrible difficulty in Scotland.
If they lose 10 seats in Scotland they need to win 80, if they win 20 they need 90 in England. Does anyone seriously believe Milband can get there?
“The only way he gets to Downing Street is by crawling in with Alex Salmond.”