Northern Tories Are Planning A Spring Conference As Group Looks To Grow Influence
Exclusive: The Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs (NRG) is planning to hold its own conference this spring in the latest sign of its growing status within the Tory party.
The NRG, which is made up of around 50 MPs representing constituencies in the north of England, including those elected in so-called Red Wall seats in 2019, is set to host a political party conference-style event in a northern town, PoliticsHome can reveal.
While the NRG is yet to decide on the exact location of the conference, the Tory parliamentary caucus is expected to pitch up at one of its key target seats for the next general election.
Last month, PoliticsHome reported that the group was planning to aggressively target the northern seats of high-profile Labour MPs like the party's deputy leader, Angela Rayner, and Shadow Cabinet Ministers Yvette Cooper and Ed Miliband, when the country next goes to the polls.
The group, fronted by former minister Jake Berry MP, will use the event to launch its manifesto, in which it will lay out a list of policies it wants the government to adopt. Media and stakeholders are set to be invited, like at conferences held by political parties.
The NRG's plan to host a conference is the latest indication of the group's efforts to its grow its influence within the Tory party and on Conservative government policy.
The support of the group could prove to be highly significant for any candidate hoping to succeed Boris Johnson in a future Conservative party leadership contest.
The group's MPs are keen to keep Johnson's promise to 'level up' their areas firmly on the agenda as the ongoing Downing Street parties scandal, and Conservative party infighting over the Prime Minister's wavering leadership, continue to distract from policy announcements.
The group has its eyes fixed on the long-awaited levelling-up white paper which Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, is preparing to publish in the coming weeks after its planned pre-Christmas publication was delayed. Gove, who has met with the NRG while putting the white paper together, is set to host the group on the eve of its publication.
Last week, the NRG was left upset and furious after one of its former members spectacularly defected to the Labour Party in protest against Johnson's leadership, stunning Conservative MPs.
Christian Wakeford, the MP for Bury South elected in 2019, was removed from all NRG lists following his bombshell announcement, which he made just before Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, while his erstwhile colleagues lambasted him in "very colourful language" in the caucus WhatsApp Group, sources told PoliticsHome.
Wakeford later alleged that he was threatened by government whips to scrap plans for a new school in his constituency if he didn't vote as they had instructed was what made him begin to question whether he wanted to be in the party.
In a scathing letter to Johnson, Wakeford said he decided to quit the Tory party because the government's policies were making the lives of constituencies "worse" and because the Prime Minister's conduct during the Downing Street parties saga had been "disgraceful".
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