Yorkshire campaign boost for Cameron

DAVID Cameron made his third trip of the election campaign to Yorkshire and told campaigning parents he would make their dream of a new school come true.

The Tory leader spoke at a rally in Birkenshaw, in Labour-held Batley and Spen, to address hundreds of parents and children whose appeal for a new school was rejected by the Government.

Accompanied by Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove, Mr Cameron said: "You've got the belief, I've got the faith in you, and together we can make this happen."

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In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Mr Cameron confirmed the party has included Schools Secretary Ed Balls's Morley and Outwood seat among an extended list of targets. He appealed to voters in parts of the region still scarred from Tory policies in the 1980s to give the party another chance.

The rally was organised by the Birkenshaw, Birstall and Gomersal Parents' Alliance (BBGPA), which wants to open its own 900-place secondary because of fears that a shake-up of the schools will force children to travel out of the area.

On the hustings

SITTING back on the comfortable black leather seating at the back of his battlebus, David Cameron is in relaxed mood despite the turbulence displayed in the opinion polls and predictions of a hung parliament.

Moments after addressing a rally of parents and children wanting to set up their own school in West Yorkshire, the coach pulls out to clock up yet more miles in what has been a gruelling election campaign tour.

Next stop is Stockton, but it is the constituency he is just leaving – Batley and Spen – which is firmly in the Tory leader's sights. Labour's majority is just over 6,000 but candidate Janice Small is fighting an active campaign and the party's promise to allow the parents to set up their school could be worth hundreds of votes in a seat they lost in 1997.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Mr Cameron also confirmed he was now treating Morley and Outwood – the seat held by Schools Secretary Ed Balls with a majority of more than 8,000 – as a target seat because the party believes support for Labour is "haemorrhaging".

"This campaign is getting to every part of the country, and we're even extending our targets into places like Morley and Outwood and Batley and Spen, fighting seats we weren't targeting before," he says.

"Michael Gove (the Shadow Schools Secretary) went to Morley and Outwood on Saturday and told me there were teams of Conservatives out on the streets fighting hard."

In casual clothes – there is no tie in sight to go with his dark blue shirt – Mr Cameron will not admit the Tory campaign has been rattled by the surge in the opinion polls by Nick Clegg in the wake of the first two televised leaders' debates and insists he is enjoying the battle.

While some Labour Ministers are seeking to cosy up to the Liberal Democrats, Mr Cameron will do no such thing despite the possibility they will have to work together if he fails to win an outright majority.

He accuses the Lib Dems of "blathering on" about being an alternative to the two old parties – rhetoric used by Mr Clegg during the debates – "even though they have been around for about 160 years and the last time they were in power they were done for selling peerages".

He appears to be working up a head of steam but leans back, laughs and decides he ought to rein himself in before he goes too far. It is a glimpse of him at his passionate best.

He is also excited today because the enthusiasm of the parents provides evidence that his bold school reforms could actually work, allowing him to attack the "naysayers and cynics" who criticise his vision of a Big Society with more individual responsibility.

Having just addressed the rally of parents rather than of party members and in a campaign where he has made stump speeches to workers in breweries and bakeries, Mr Cameron – who says he is "brimming with energy" and tucked up in bed at an early hour despite attending his sister's wedding on Saturday – contrasts his tactics with Labour's approach of going "from safe house to safe house".

Despite most opinion polls predicting a hung parliament, a Tory majority is still a "winnable argument" he says. "The big question is how do I get change? The answer is the Conservatives because anything else and you end up with Gordon Brown still in Downing Street."

n Britain is still heading for a hung parliament, with Labour trailing in third place in the popular vote, an opinion poll suggested last night.

The YouGov daily tracker poll for The Sun showed the Tories unchanged on 34 per cent – four points ahead of the Lib Dems who were up one on 30 per cent, while Labour were down one on 28 per cent.

PLEA TO GIVE PARTY A SECOND CHANCE

David Cameron appealed for voters in parts of the region still scarred by 1980s Tory reforms to give the party a second chance.

He admitted that "feelings still can run very deep" from an era that saw communities devastated by unemployment and the collapse of manufacturing and mining.

And while he offered no apology to those who blame Margaret Thatcher's governments for failing to offer any help, he appealed to voters to recognise how the party has modernised and changed in the past four years under his leadership.

"I know it was a very difficult period and big changes took place," said Mr Cameron. "I think people understand some of those changes had to take place in terms of our country and I know that the feelings still can run very deep.

"But this is a different election, there's a new choice, and a new Conservative party."

Parts of South Yorkshire in particular remain hostile to the Tories – with only the new seat of Penistone and Stocksbridge a realistic target for them – and the party needs to make serious inroads into Labour constituencies in West Yorkshire to regain power.