Red Wall backlash at Boris: Tory MPs demand ‘minister for the North’ and cost-of-living action as they warn northern voters will decide PM’s fate at the next election
- Former minister Jake Berry says the Tories need a ‘distinctive northern voice’
- He warns Red Wall voters will be ‘kingmakers’ at the next general election
- He urges the PM to come forward with cost-of-living help for ‘scared’ Britons
A group of Tory MPs are demanding a ‘minister for the North’ as Boris Johnson was warned Red Wall voters will decide his fate at the next general election.
Influential Conservative backbencher Jake Berry, the chairman of the 80-strong Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, insisted the party needed a ‘distinctive northern voice’ to go ‘toe to toe’ with Labour mayors in Manchester and Liverpool.
He also demanded Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Treasury change its ‘mindset’ to offer more support to Britons being hammered by the cost-of-living crisis.
Mr Berry’s call for action came with a message for the Prime Minister that northern voters would be ‘kingmakers’ at the next election.
He described how the party had undergone a ‘generational shift’ since the 2019 election, when many voters in Labour’s former northern heartlands switched to the Tories.
Jake Berry served as Minister for the Northern Powerhouse under both Theresa May and Boris Johnson
The Prime Minister is being urged by the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs to once again have a specific northern-focussed ministerial role
Mr Berry served as Minister for the Northern Powerhouse under both Theresa May and Mr Johnson.
But he left his role at Cabinet meetings in 2020, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps taking over his responsibilities.
He told The Times that his NRG colleagues, who will hold their first conference in Doncaster next month, are urging the PM to once again have a specific northern-focussed ministerial role.
‘Colleagues are really clear that actually, to get that distinctive northern Conservative voice out there, you need someone to go toe to toe with Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, other northern mayors… and that’s really missing at the moment,’ he told the newspaper.
Mr Berry described how, when he was first elected an MP in 2010, the Tories were ‘effectively a southern party that had a few northern MPs’.
He said this had now been ‘turned on its head’ by the 2019 election.
But he warned there was no ‘God-given right’ for northern constituencies to continue having a Tory MP forever, adding: ‘Frankly, if we don’t win seats in the North then Boris Johnson is not going to be prime minister.’
Amid a Cabinet-level rift over how to best support Britons through the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Berry said there was a need for the ‘Treasury mindset to change’ and said ‘people aren’t worried, they’re scared’ about soaring household bills.
The Chancellor has not ruled out imposing a windfall tax on energy companies to help fund extra support, but there are reports of tensions between him and Mr Johnson over how the levy should be implemented and what it should be spent on.
Mr Berry gave his backing to an increase in Universal Credit and a cut to VAT.
Referring to how Tories in both Scotland and Wales often have different messaging to the party in England, Mr Berry questioned how the Conservatives can ‘appeal to voters in Surrey Heath and Darlington’.
‘Is there something about having the same philosophy but different messaging around it?,’ he asked.
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