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Conservative manifesto will aim to convince voters in Teesside to back the Tories

Theresa May hopes to make gains in the West Midlands but she has an even more ambitious goal - to win seats in Labour's North East heartland

Manifesto launches are big events in every election campaign.

The major parties are guaranteed to be the centre of attention when they reveal their plans.

And Labour gets two bites of the cherry.

First, its manifesto was leaked last week. That meant it was the top news story of the day.

And this week, Labour will get another chance to make its case, when the manifesto is officially published.

But Conservative leader Theresa May has her own manifesto launch, also this week.

And she’s planning to park her tanks firmly on Labour’s lawn.

She wants to make it clear that there are no no-go areas for the Conservatives.

They won the election for a West Midlands mayor, when businessman Andy Street, the Tory candidate, was victorious.

That was a breakthrough for the Conservatives.

Conservative leader Theresa May is trying to appeal to voters who always voted Labour before
Conservative leader Theresa May is trying to appeal to voters who always voted Labour before

But in some ways, the result in Tees Valley - where Conservatives also won the election for a regional mayor - was even more surprising.

Birmingham has always had a Conservative presence. The Conservatives are already strong in the West Midlands, even if Labour is stronger.

But the North East is another matter. The Tees Valley mayor was elected by voters in places like Middlesbrough. Hartlepool, Darlington, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.

There is one Conservative MP in the area, in the Stockton South constituency. And there are rural areas which don’t fit the stereotype of the northern town or city where everyone votes Labour.

But with all that said, this is still the part of the country where the Tory brand is meant to be toxic. Where people remember Maggie Thatcher with fury.

That doesn’t seem to be true any more.

Conservative leader Theresa May is trying to appeal to people who don’t traditionally vote Tory by pledging to support working people - and ditching the devotion to the free market that the Conservatives have been associated with.

View from the top of the Transporter Bridge over the River Tees, Middlesbrough.

That’s why the Conservative manifesto will include controls on energy bills, for example.

And Conservatives think Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn appeals more to middle class students than to patriotic and hard working voters in the North.

We saw this when Mrs May visited North Tyneside last week. Conservatives are daring to hope that they might actually win seats in the North East.

Mrs May said: “Millions of people here in the north east of England, and across our country, have loyally given the Labour Party their allegiance for generations. I respect that.”

But she urged them: “If you put your trust in me, back me, I will strive to be a leader worthy of our great country.”

Her party hopes to gain seats in places like Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, a Labour-held marginal.

So her manifesto launch will be a bold attempt to plant her flag in places such as Middlesbrough and say there is nowhere Tories cannot go.

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