ONE of the great takeaways from this year’s Tory Party Conference in Manchester was that the North has truly “levelled up.”
On the surface, Manchester seems an odd choice of place to host the biggest annual gathering of the Conservative Party. This is a city which was widely trashed by Thatcher’s industrial closures and is in a Labour heartland widely known as the Red Wall.
We know from recent by-election results that that Red Wall has started to break.
The Hartlepool by-election was the best example of that. Working-class voters turned Tory on the basis that Labour weren’t listening to their concerns.
On my visit to Manchester for the conference, I spoke to a taxi driver. He, like many others I spoke to on the street, were aghast that I, all suited and booted, were heading to the Tory Party conference in an area so famous for being a Labour stronghold.
Another by-stander I met at my hotel told me to hide my conference pass as being a Tory member “makes you a target.” This is certainly not a place where saying “Margaret Thatcher was our greatest Prime Minister” is going to win applause.
But then I entered the conference centre which was heavily guarded by armed police officers and convoys. The atmosphere here was very different.
There were stalls selling books about the possibility of Priti Patel as Prime Minister and mugs with Maggie on the front of them. I felt at home. I felt like I was entering my right wing fantasy land.
I, living in Nottinghamshire, find myself continuously surrounded by left wing, champagne socialist remainers.
There’s generally an assumption that anyone who voted leave is either old or racist. Not true as this conference completely and utterly proved the youth of today were lobbying for a good hard divorce from the bureaucracy of Brussels.
Those who told me they backed Remain made another potentially death-knell confession that they were rabid Thatcherites – not something I expected to hear in Manchester. Again, this made me very happy as Thatcher is my absolute political hero and idol.
Now, I’m all in favour of the current big government spending and tax hikes Boris is ushering in, but do think the Tories will need to make up for such state intervention by a period of austerity measures in the next few years. Even so, I was thrilled that members shared my passion for small state, deregulation and low taxes.
But what I loved most about such conversations was that shared utter detestment for left wing bigotry.
It is, of course, the left who act as though they are all about equality and tolerance, but trash anything that doesn’t line up with their beliefs.
All of which brings me to Boris Johnson’s promise at the end of the last election to “level up” the north.
He wants to break the Red Wall and provide better services and incentives to northern towns, villages and cities. Manchester seemed the perfect place to start this vision, being a potential second capital for business.
When I booked my train tickets to Manchester for the conference, I was widely expecting howls of derision that I was attending the nasty party’s biggest event.
I was expecting to be showered with remarks from angry lefties claiming “YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE!”. I was expecting to have Labour loonies echoing Angela Rayner’s reported “scum” remark about my voting preferences and to get beaten up for proclaiming “Margaret Thatcher changed the landscape of Britain.”
In fact, the opposite was true. The 2021 Conservative Party Conference was teeming with right wingers.
I was surrounded by Thatcherites and Brexiteers. It felt like heaven on Earth for this Tory toff and made me proud of my political affiliations with the greatest party in the western world.
So what’s the big takeaway of CPC2021?
Well, put it simply, the north has truly levelled up. Boris has succeeded in breaking the Red Wall and it’s well on its way to becoming a Tory heartland. It bodes well for the Tories at the next general election.
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