Tories deny they have abandoned the North East

Tory party chairman Grant Shapps hit back at claims the party had "given up on the North" and insisted tomorrow's Budget will be good news for the North East

Dave Thompson/PA Wire Tory party chairman Grant Shapps
Tory party chairman Grant Shapps

The Conservatives have said they will target working class Northern voters even as austerity measures continue.

Tory party chairman Grant Shapps hit back at claims the party had “given up on the North” and insisted tomorrow’s Budget will be good news for the region.

With a strong UKIP vote predicted in the upcoming European elections, the party is still way behind any signs of a revived North East presence.

Speaking to The Journal, Mr Shapps said he was confident the party could fight back in the region.

He said: “I recognise that we have a long way to go, we took over a recession from the last Government, there was no double dip recession.

“Now there are in the North East 17,000 more people in a job than there were. There is just the start of the recovery. I know the North East had some big issues to deal with, the reliance on the public sector, but it is showing good signs.”

He admitted though that there was little hope in sight of an end to Government spending cuts.

“What we need to do now is not create more Government jobs but help create more private sector jobs,” he said. Mr Shapps added: “There is no short cut. If you believe you can somehow just raise taxes and spend money on jobs we know from years of experience that it just does not work.

“We have come this far, it has been difficult and painful, I totally get that. But what we do not want to do is hand the car keys back to the people who crashed this economy in the first place.”

Mr Shapps faces a difficult task turning that economic message into votes in the North East, with a 10% unemployment rate standing as the UK’s highest.

Asked if he feared losing out to UKIP in the region despite the Budget message, Mr Shapps said: “If voters want a referendum the last thing they should do is vote UKIP, because that will just hand power to Labour, and then you will never get what you want.”

Over the weekend Labour had attacked the Tories record in the North, saying it had abandoned the region.

Asked if he thought this was true, Mr Shapps said: “Absolutely not, the North has been the engine of the economy and I think we will see that again in the North, and Conservatives are going to be a part of that.”

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