Conservative party chairman: 'I am bloody loyal to the North East'

  • Tom Sheldrick speaks to Conservative party chairman Richard Holden about his election plans

The Conservative party chairman and County Durham MP Richard Holden has insisted: "I am bloody loyal to the North East", despite choosing not to stand in any of the local constituencies that will replace his seat at the general election.

Under an independent national boundary review aimed at making constituencies more equal in terms of population size, his constituency of North West Durham is being portioned up and added into four other seats - including Bishop Auckland, where the current Conservative MP is standing down.

In an interview with ITV Tyne Tees, Mr Holden told us he is not standing in any of those four local seats, because: "I don't want to represent just a part of North West Durham until the general election, I want to represent all of North West Durham until the general election."

Challenged by our Political Correspondent Tom Sheldrick on whether he is looking for a seat elsewhere in the country where he is more likely to win, and not being loyal to the North East, he responded: "No, I am bloody loyal to the North East, Tom. I care about this constituency, I've fought for them every day since 2019.

"They've never had a constituency MP who works harder. I'm up there, even doing this job, every week, working seven days a week for the people of North West Durham and I'll continue to do that right to the day of the next general election."

Asked whether he was planning to stand at the general election at all, Mr Holden said: "I don't know what I'm going to do yet, to be totally honest."

Richard Holden said he wants to represent all of North West Durham until the next general election. Credit: PA

First elected in December 2019, he has been quickly promoted, joining the cabinet last November. He told us: "it's certainly not what I was expecting."

His role as Conservative party chairman is a vital position, particularly during a general election year.

He said: "It's really busy. I'm spending as much time in the constituency as I can, but I'm obviously right around the country. There's a lot of campaigning as you'd expect, but actually managing the central party essentially as well."

"Particularly nice for me, being the only real Red Wall MP in the cabinet, is being able to bring that perspective to those discussions."

In January, 60 Conservative MPs backed rebel amendments over the government's flagship policy to send some asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Sir Simon Clarke recently called for Rishi Sunak to be removed as Prime Minister, saying the party would otherwise face "massacre" at the general election.

Asked about such interventions, Mr Holden said: "It's always frustrating. People are always going to have different opinions.

"I think usually it's best for those opinions to be expressed to other colleagues in the most constructive manner possible, and I'm not sure that all colleagues have always done that in recent months.

"All colleagues want the same outcomes - we want to see immigration control, we want the taxes to be cut for working people, we want to see economic growth for everybody in the country.

"The truth is there will always be slight disagreements about how to get there. I think it's always important for all colleagues to remember what unites us, which are those fundamental things."

Richard Holden is one of 11 Conservative MPs in the North East currently, but opinion poll models have suggested they could be close to wipeout at the general election.

Asked if there will be any Tory MPs left in the North East, he replied: "Definitely. Polls move around. As we always say, the only poll that matters is on election day.

"I think there's a long way to go. I think it's true that, after the difficult few years we've had, the Conservative party really need to bring forwards clear policies for the future, which can not only reflect some of the good things that we've done, but also reflect the aspirations of people now for the future as well. And I think we'll be doing that over the coming months."

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