Since the 2010 General Election, Conservative MPs from across Yorkshire have quietly been building a sphere of influence. This is in contrast to the headline grabbing monetary demands of the DUP amidst the chaos that followed the General Election result earlier in the year, but may reveal the truth behind who holds the real balance of power in the corridors of Westminster.
Over the course of the last political generation, the region has played an integral role in the trajectory of national politics, Yorkshire MPs having been represented in every Cabinet – Tory and Labour alike – since 1995 when William Hague became Welsh Secretary. The current crop, many of whom were elected as part of the 2010 and 2015 parliamentary intake, have started to make headway at a rapid rate within the Conservative Party, and as such will never have a better chance to stand up for the region’s interests and influence the future direction of the Party.
In what is developing into the most finely-balanced Parliament in recent memory, we have seen DUP MPs acquire an additional £1bn for Northern Ireland – the equivalent of £100m for each its 10 MPs, as well as the new intake of Scottish Tory MPs already making their mark by working collectively to maximise their demands. However, it may be the case that Yorkshire’s 16 disparate Conservative MPs have made the real waves across Westminster.
As the Conservatives seek to remedy their image as an out of touch elitist party deaf to the needs of people not living in the South East, a number of the 2010 and 2015 intake have quietly built a broad portfolio of impressive work, making their way through the junior ranks of government with certain individuals emerging as the real powerbrokers of Parliament.
Conservative colleagues from across the county have worked across a comprehensive and wide-range selection of government departments, demonstrating a diverse assortment of talent and understanding of policy issues. Prominent individuals include current Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Andrew Jones (Transport, HMT), Kevin Hollinrake (PPS to Michael Gove in EFRA), Andrew Percy (former Northern Powerhouse Minister), along with Stuart Andrew and Nigel Adams, both of whom have had PPS roles and are now working in the Whips Office.
Arguably the most recent high-profile individual to emerge from the group is Julian Smith, Member of Parliament for the rural North Yorkshire seat of Skipton and Ripon. His appointment in November this year, following his predecessor Gavin Williamson’s promotion as Defence Secretary, caused barely a ripple nationally.
Since his election in 2010, Smith’s progression through the ranks, having adopted a low profile and garnered a reputation for hard work and, importantly for his constituents, ensuring Yorkshire voices are well represented (he was at the forefront of the bid to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2013), is typical of the group’s work ethic as a whole. Smith has already had to face a number of difficult tasks in his short tenure, facing down a number of pro-Remain Conservative MPs amidst over the Government’s Brexit deal.
In addition, with the need for fresh blood to be injected into the ranks of prospective Conservative leadership contenders, many have tipped fresh-faced Brexiteer Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, who replaced William Hague in 2015, to be a frontrunner in any future leadership contest.
Given the Conservative’s recent mantra in pushing its devolution agenda (albeit more so under the Cameron-Osborne era), there is a great sense of irony that the region has yet to deliver a proper devolutionary settlement along with an elected mayor, epitomising the acrimonious deadlock over efforts to give the region more control over its own affairs.
The appointment of Smith, along with other colleagues in the whips’ office and across the Government, therefore spells exciting news for constituents across the region, giving them even more opportunities to raise local issues, including devolution, transport and infrastructure, as well as the dominant theme of this Parliament, namely Brexit.
For as long as the Government remains, the current crop of Conservative colleagues from across Yorkshire have an excellent platform from which to pull more strings within Westminster. For whilst members of the Cabinet may steal the headlines, it is this web of White Rose parliamentarians who are ideally placed to achieve their goals for God’s Own Country.
Matthew Sutton, Account Manager