LUNCHTIME yesterday. David Davis was rushing from one hustings in Newcastle to another in York as the Conservative leadership circus performed to two houses in its one day in the region.

And being a Yorkshireman, he wanted fish and chips for lunch. Sadly, Harry Ramsden's on the motorway was closed - even though it was 1.30pm.

Still Davis said: "The North/South Divide exists because it is wonderful up here - we need to keep it a secret from the southerners."

He was born in York, and lived his first seven years in Walmgate inside the city walls before moving to south London.

However, his roots go deeper: his grandfather, Walter Harrison, had been a shop steward and a Communist agitator who had led part of the Jarrow march.

But in recent elections, the North-East has turned to Liberal Democrats and Independents - even monkeys - when it has wanted to give its Labour rulers a kicking and not to the Conservatives. Why?

"We allowed ourselves to be parodied into something that's not true," says Davis, "by not being strong enough on public service issues - certainly on crime, health, education and housing - and by not persuading people that we really care about every sector of society.

"We are not a privileged group for the South that only cares about ourselves, but that's how we have sometimes been caricatured."

Representing an East Yorkshire constituency, he is proud of the role he played in preventing John Prescott from holding a regional assembly referendum in the county last year. But he still fears "regionalisation by stealth" as police, health, fire services merge.

"An ambulance came to a village in my constituency and had to ask the way to the house: they had lost their local knowledge and their sense of localism," he said.

"I do not like regionalism. I am a great believer in that the people who know best are local people, and it is as true here as anywhere else."

He is an advocate of directly-elected police commissioners who would control policing strategy.

"In Ray Mallon, in Middlesbrough, you effectively have one," he said, although Mr Mallon is supporting David Cameron in the leadership battle. However, he believes the police forces should remain as they are.

They could share resources such as an anti-terrorism unit or an armed response unit, but he was distinctly unimpressed by the drive to amalgamate forces so they have more than 4,000 officers each.

"Four thousand is a typical Whitehall simplification," he said. "They count economies of scale - but not diseconomies of scale. They've never even run a chip shop."

And with that, he's off to find a fish shop, and batter someone else's ears with his rapidfire words