David Skelton is a former Deputy Director of Policy Exchange. He is now establishing a campaign group aimed at broadening Conservative appeal, which will launch in July. Follow David on Twitter.
Take a look at the electoral map for the big Tory landslides since 1945 – whether it be Eden’s in 1955, Macmillan’s in 1959 or Thatcher’s in 1983. One thing becomes abundantly clear – a major contribution to big-post war election victories was winning seats in Scotland, the North and the Midlands. These leaders were winning seats in cities that have now become an electoral wasteland for the Conservatives.
If the Conservatives cannot make significant headway in the urban centres in the North and Midlands, as well as making some kind of recovery in Scotland and picking up seats in the South West, it will be much more difficult for them to govern with an overall majority again. Being shut out from great swathes of the nation means that the party is starting each election campaign at a disadvantage. That’s why it’s so crucial that the Conservatives make a focused and determined effort to regain lost ground outside of its South Eastern heartland.
The scale of the problem is illustrated by the fact that the Tories hold less than a third of the seats in the North of England and only a single seat in Scotland. They hold only 20 of the 124 urban seats in the North and Midlands (that’s a mere 16 per cent). In cities where there was once a strong Tory presence, such as Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool, conservatism has become very much a minority interest – there isn’t a single Tory Councillor in any of these cities and in most Council wards the party isn’t even in a challenging position.
In Liverpool, once a bastion of working class Toryism, the Party came a miserable seventh in last year’s election to be Mayor of the city – with just over four per cent of the vote, compared to the winning candidate’s 59 per cent. There isn’t much evidence that the situation has improved since then either. This morning’s YouGov poll, which gives Labour a nine point lead nationally, gives them an 11 per cent lead in the Midlands and Wales and a whopping 36 per cent lead in the North.