A Tale of Two Cities

Ideological rifts will send the Tories’ 2024 campaign adrift

Johnson has problems (really? Tell us something we don’t know), problems that go beyond cheese, wine, and confidence votes.


In the 2019 election, the Conservative Party advanced into the ‘red wall’, a collection of constituencies in Northern England that had, until then, consecutively elected a Labour MP. Under Boris Johnson, the Conservative Party saw their biggest majority since the 1980s, rampaging across England armed with the slogan ‘Get Brexit Done’. The election marked the ultimate finale in the Brexit spectacle, and probably the only time that there has been a sigh of relief after a tory victory, as voters became sick of all the Brexit talk (there will certainly be one when they go, make no mistake of that).

Despite the fact that the UK is now officially out of the EU, I am sure many will agree with me when I say that Brexit is definitely not done, the Northern Ireland protocol is a testament to that. Yet Johnson has got more problems than just trade, and I’ll wager to say that the 2024 election depends on it.

It’s no secret that Boris Johnson favours a small state, the liberal libertarian in him was the main reason for his reluctance to lock the country down upon the dawn of the pandemic. Yet this ideological stance conflicts with Tory MPs in the recently occupied ‘Red Wall’ seats, who are demanding public investment to ‘keep the wall blue’ come 2024.


The neoliberal camp in the party is unlikely to support huge interventions, and Boris Johnson can indeed be counted in that camp. However, it is not just the MPs who occupy ‘red wall’ seats, but the conservative party’s success in the looming general election, that demands further intervention by the Johnson ministry. The breaking of the red wall was a symbol of the success that the conservative party saw during 2019’s election, and was a key part of Johnson’s large majority that allowed him to move forward with the withdrawal process and leaving the EU. However, some victories are short-lived.


Although there have been a number of commentators that have tried to pinpoint Johnson on the political spectrum, many have come to the conclusion that he is simply an ‘opportunist’ with libertarian tendencies and a dash of ‘one nation conservatism’. Fail to take the opportunity to keep the voters in the red wall on side, and the 2024 election may just slip away from the Tories.


Johnson’s label as a ‘one nation’ conservative is a controversial one. The faction of conservatism began when Benjamin Disraeli observed that 19th century Britain had split into two nations, the rich and the poor, and that something had to be done to resolve this. The same could be said for Britain’s present, as many households struggle to heat their homes amid surging energy bills, and incomes are being squeezed by high inflation, plunging some into the depths of poverty. But our Prime Minister’s minimal interventionist stance means that we are unlikely to see any major action, even if he is a sympathiser to the ‘one nation’ doctrine. The thing is, we are unlikely to see anything being done by the Conservatives, as it was just last week that Johnson survived a vote of no confidence in his leadership, with 148 MPs voting against him. Although he survived, the vote shows that the Conservative party’s outlook is not a happy one.


The Tories have no other suitable candidate for the leadership, and Boris Johnson, as far as the hardline brexiteers are concerned, has delivered for them time and again, and his status as a public figure during his tenure as London Mayor, has proven to be an electoral asset – thus, he remains.


But that was the last election, our eyes now turn towards the next. Either Boris Johnson remains true to his own politics, and refrain from committing to public expenditure and investment, or he makes those commitments, and perhaps save his hard-won territory in the North…

 

References & Further Reading

https://www.newstatesman.com/comment/2022/06/the-tories-remain-the-prisoners-of-market-ideology

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-09/johnson-says-he-wants-uk-tax-cuts-sooner-rather-than-later

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