Yorkshire is set to be one of the nation’s key election battlegrounds as voters in the region prepare to set out their demands.
Voters in Yorkshire hold the key to Downing Street, with swing seats, heartland bases for leadership material and break through constituencies for minor parties all in the minds of senior election planners.
And to bring that focus together, today The Yorkshire Post begins the process of ensuring the region has a united voice. We will be publishing next month a Yorkshire Manifesto, promoting concerns and opportunities the region thinks should be high on the minds of party leaders seeking your vote.
As part of the process, we want your views on what should be a priority for Yorkshire after the May election.
Whether it’s a demand for regional devolution as Scotland pushes ahead with more power and spending, or a promise from all the parties to finally solve the rural broadband deficit facing the countryside, your views will feature in the manifesto put in the hands of the nation’s most senior politicians.
That means a chance to set the terms of the debate for Yorkshire, ensuring, for example, that flood defences are discussed now, rather than waiting for the next flood to focus the minds of MPs.
The Yorkshire Manifesto will mean that visiting politicians will have to make clear what they will do safeguard the future of bus services, for example, rather than letting MPs set the terms of the debate in your region.
The timing of the manifesto could not be more important. Labour is seeking to defend a Northern homeland it needs now more than ever, while George Osborne leads a Conservative revival attempt with his Northern Powerhouse.
But for many in power, or those seeking it, the North is too often counted as one region, from Newcastle to Leeds and across to Manchester. The unique demands of Yorkshire, from its farming communities to its powerful cities, deserve to be a focus of their own.
The election battle ground plays to the region’s advantage in 2015.
For the Conservative’s the first priority is to hold on to hard won gains in 2010. For Labour many of those are on the target list.
West Yorkshire, for example, sees Dewsbury and Pudsey among the top 40 seats Labour must win if it is toi form a government. And without them, David Cameron would at best be facing further coalition talks.
With voters in those and other Yorkshire seats seeing their vote influence rocket, many will be asking what would-be MPs can do for them, and the Yorkshire Manifest to is the chance to make that happen.
With the election result still too close to call, even the smaller parties look to Yorkshire as part of their road to victory.
That means the region should expect plenty of visits from Ukip leader Nigel Farage. The party has Great Grimbsy in its sights, followed closely by Rotherham.
In both those seats the party will seek to capitalise on voter dissatisfaction, looking for voters from those who have given up.
But even Mr Farage and his plague on all your houses approach must have a plan for Yorkshire beyond just taking the region’s votes and seeking to influence power.
Next month the views of those across the region will be set out in a Yorkshire manifesto which will unpin how this newspaper represents you.
The demands set out in the manifesto will be used as a way of judging success or failure from every party, ensuring that this time Yorkshire is their priority as well.