Rishi Sunak said there was “no route to electoral success” for the Conservatives without the north, as he travelled from Washington DC to Doncaster to address Tory members.
The Prime Minister, introduced as arriving on the “red eye to the red wall”, emphasised his Government’s commitment to the north of England during a speech at the Northern Research Group conference.
But he also acknowledged the importance the former Labour heartlands, won by Boris Johnson in 2019, would play at the next election.
Mr Sunak, whose seat is in Yorkshire, said that his Government was “absolutely committed” to the north.
Declaring himself a “Prime Minister for the north”, he said: “We know that our majority runs through the north and that there is no route to electoral success without you.”
Leading Conservatives, including former party chair Sir Jake Berry, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and former chancellor George Osborne, are among those at the event.
The one-day conference has seen members discuss devolution, healthcare and energy.
It comes amid concerns that Mr Sunak’s party will struggle to retain some of the so-called red wall seats at the next general election.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, among the speakers at the event, said that it was about ensuring that ministers do not backtrack on the levelling-up agenda pioneered by former prime minister Boris Johnson.
He expressed hope that voters would once again back the Conservatives at the election, expected before January 2025.
It was, he told the conference earlier, “human nature that people want to vote for us again”.
“It is human nature to want to be right,” he said, adding that there was still time for the party to win back voters.