2 Nation Conservative party conference in Birmingham 2012
Where did it start? With the beginnings of a long-overdue debate over how the party regains the trust and confidence of the north, particularly urban seats, in much the same way as Margaret Thatcher did.
The facts speak for themselves. Of the 158 constituencies in the North, at the last General Election, the Conservatives won just 43, a little over 27% of the seats available. For a party committed to governing in the national interest this causes problems on two levels.
On the crudely political one, the arithmetic is clear: David Cameron cannot hope to win an outright majority without picking up more seats in the three northern regions But there is something else, far more fundamental. At a time when ministers are speaking of the need for yet more austerity, neither party in the coalition has a mandate in the north to push this agenda on.
Take benefit reforms, for example. The Chancellor this week announced that £10 billion of further cuts would be needed from the welfare budget, a proposal likely to hurt the north more than the south. Yet despite this, the largest party in Government claims a mandate for such reforms not from those likely to be most affected, but from the south where jobs are in much greater supply. Little wonder that many now openly question whether Britain is fast becoming not one nation, but two.
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