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William Hague: Rebuilding our party across the North

Speaking at the Conservative Party spring Forum in Gateshead today, William Hague said:

"I have always been proud to have been born, raised and educated in the north of England. I've always counted it as an advantage in life. And when anyone has ever argued to me that Yorkshire should have its own assembly or government, I have always replied that the role of Yorkshiremen is not just to run Yorkshire but to help run the world.

In the 1970s, my mother, who was for many years the Treasurer of the local RNLI, went in to a pub in Barnsley collecting for the lifeboats, and came face-to-face with Arthur Scargill, then at the height of his influence. "Don't worry, love," he said to her, "when my Labour mates and I come to power you won't have to collect money any more because we'll have the lifeboats nationalised." "Yes," said my mother, "and then they'll no doubt be on strike - so get your hand in your pocket and get your money in that lifeboat".

There is a directness about us northerners, and a refusal to be taken for granted. There is a readiness to answer back.

And for us northern Conservatives it is time to answer back.

I have for years been determined that the Conservative Party will not be a party of the South and the Midlands but will be a party of the whole of England and the whole United Kingdom.

We have often been told by out-of-date commentators that, yes, of course, the Tories can win in southern England, but you know, they can make no progress in the north.

I want them to hear today these three facts:

- In last year's local elections many of our most striking victories, in Blackpool, in South Ribble, in the East Riding of Yorkshire and in Chester were here in the North of England.

- In those elections the Conservatives fielded more candidates in the North than any other party

- And in Yorkshire and the North West the Conservatives now control more councils than any other party.

Oh, and by the way, in a council by-election in Middlesbrough on Thursday the Conservative share of the vote went up 14%

I want them to know that in dozens of council wards across the north the work to build up our strength at local level has long been going on.

I want them to know that whatever weaknesses we may have had in our organisation and parliamentary seats in the north we have resolved, with great dedication and determination, to put it right.

That since we launched Campaign North last year we have built up our Campaign Centres in Newcastle, Salford and Bradford, raised more money than for many years on the basis that it is spent here in the north, and that has allowed us to double the number of our campaigning staff in just one year.

That we have here some of the best councillors and candidates in the land.

In case anyone doesn't believe me among those commentators, who can be a little cynical at times, I am going to show you what we are doing and some of the people doing it.

In a moment we will see the first of three short films, about the excellent work of our Salford Campaign Centre, serving all of the North West. And we are going to hear from some of the hard working candidates and councillors who are working to transform our position in the north.

Cllr Lee Martin of Sunderland, Cllr Mike Walker of Wakefield, Cllr Faraz Bhatti of Manchester, and our candidates Wendy Morton of Tynemouth, Anne-Marie Trevelyan of Berwick-on-Tweed, Zahid Iqbal of Bradford West and Nigel Adams of Selby - please give them all a great welcome.

They are the future of our party. They are the future of the North. They are worth listening to, and I am proud to stand alongside them as we rebuild our party across the North. Thank you very much."

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