The Strange Death of Conservative England? – Only Boris Johnson Can Save Them | Jack Walters
It was a little over a century ago that the Liberal Party went from His Majesty’s Government to being relegated to a third-rate party: they had lost many of their strongholds, including H.H. Asquith’s seat of East Fife; they lost over 30% of their vote share since; and they had lost their grip on British politics. George Dangerfield described the collapse as ‘The Strange Death of Liberal England,’ and now we are potentially seeing the death of another major party. The possible demise of the Conservative Party is both less contentious and simpler to explain than that of the Liberals, for it is one issue, and one issue only, that may lead to Britain’s oldest party consigning itself to the rubbish bin of British politics. What is that issue? That issue is Europe.
The referendum of 2016 did not cause division among the Tories on Europe, but it did remove the plasters that were attempting to conceal the deep wounds of European membership. It was quite promising in 1975 when only 26 MPs of the 275 opposed the bloc. However, once Margaret Thatcher saw the light on Europe, the party entered a stage of disarray. Mrs Thatcher won the rebate back, her Bruges speech called for individual states to cooperate not be bound by one another, and her emphatic ‘no, no, no’ to Jacques Delors prompted one of the most infamous Sun headlines of ‘Up Yours Delors.’ Subsequently, Geoffrey Howe resigned and gave one last damaging speech, ending her time in Downing Street. Her successor, John Major, fared no better and went on to describe Conservative Eurosceptics as ‘bastards.’ Nonetheless, it was David Cameron who unleashed the demons of the division, with two massive rebellions on whether or not to hold a referendum and then a Blue-On-Blue war during the campaign itself.
If Britain does not leave the European Union as again promised, then that is it, the end of the Conservative Party in England and possibly the end of any faith in our democratic process. The elections of May have given us a mere inkling. May was a disaster for the Tories with 1330 Tory councillors losing their seats and then the Tories failed to surpass a double-figure vote share when they straggled behind in fifth place in the EU Elections. The Tory vote went emphatically to the Brexit Party with YouGov calculating that almost 6 in 10 Tory members backed the Brexit Party in the EU Elections. Unlike the UKIP threat of 2014 and 2015, this new onslaught by Farage is far more profound. Take the commuter belt, progressive, Conservative, safe seat of Chelmsford. It is a seat that has voted blue in every election since 1950 and only narrowly voted to leave the European Union in 2016. However, it is only one of many examples where a Tory seat saw the Brexit Party romp to victory winning over 40% of the vote. It is these seats that UKIP struggled to do as well in 2014 and 2015.
The Conservative Party under Theresa May was ill, weak, and on the verge of collapse. There was only one ointment to prevent its death, and that was Boris Johnson. It may just be a few days into his premiership, but the ointment is working, and many Brexiteers across the country have changed from growing pessimism and defeatism to replenished confidence. This change of heart and faith from the leave voters may solve the problems that Theresa May had created for the Tories. Polling has indicated that it is Boris Johnson that could solve Tory fortunes, with some polls anticipating a potential 40-seat Conservative majority. He is a born winner, and despite some regions regarding the Tories with toxicity, Boris is the only man who can deliver the Brexit that they voted for. Boris can go tête-à-tête with Labour in the north, the Midlands and Wales. The most recent YouGov poll has a Tory lead in these areas. Boris has the potential to redraw the political landscape as Thatcher and Disraeli did before him. He has proven that he can reach further outside of the Conservative base in his mayoral elections and of course in the Brexit referendum of 2016. But Boris will also win back the disillusioned ex-Tories, like myself, whom Theresa May ignored during her time in Number 10.
It was a monumental moment for Brexiteers to see Boris on the steps of Downing Street speaking so confidently about our imminent independence. The action in the Commons the day after Boris became Prime Minister would also have seen Brexiteers rejoice. The new Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, opened the day with a quip in response to the Labour MP Gareth Snell’s question on voting for a Custom’s Union amendment. The hardline Brexiteer replied ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’.
Nonetheless, it was Boris himself who stole the show. His performance was authoritative, direct and powerful. His seven-minute dissection of the Labour Party was perhaps the most significant part. He scolded Corbyn and McDonnell’s Marxist economic policies of John McDonnell that were too left-wing even for Ken Livingstone and then warned the British people that Labour would raise taxes on income, inheritance, pension and even gardens. However, it was his conclusion that was received most warmly. Since Corbyn has been ‘reprogrammed’ to support Remain it is now the Tories who are the ‘party of the people, the party of the many and they are the party of the few, we will take this country forward; they will take it backwards.’ I warn Labour that if they put a motion of no-confidence in and win over enough Remaniac Tories, then Boris will punish them across Great Britain.
Boris Johnson’s strong performance and long overdue premiership has reignited the flame of conservatism from the embers of British politics. It is Boris Johnson that will win a general election. It is Boris Johnson that will deliver Brexit. And it is Boris Johnson that will save the Conservative Party.