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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
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Don’t Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg

Margaret Thatcher & Boris Johnson

One of the less-endearing qualities of the Conservative and Unionist Party (and I speak as a life-long Conservative voter), is the lemming-like compulsion to immediate change leader if things appear not to be going their way. 'Throwing out the baby with the bathwater' appears to be the inevitable jerk reaction by some MPs, regardless of the value of the baby in question; by this, of course, I am referring to the way in which certain MPs will move to oust serving Prime Ministers at the first sign of a 'wobble'. It would appear that regardless of the success of the PM in question, if they are perceived as a potential danger to the Party's electoral chances, they must go – and generally by means of a metaphorical knife in the back. The two that come to mind instantly in this respect are Margaret Thatcher and Boris Johnson, both of whom were highly successful and much-loved PMs, yet a minority of self-serving Conservative MPs, headed by certain Ministers greedy for power and undoubtedly jealous of the success of the PM in question, moved to topple these individuals. I had hoped that the political death of Margaret Thatcher would be the last of such treachery, yet we have recently seen the same thing happen to Boris Johnson – a PM who, at the December 2019 election, delivered the largest overall majority to the Party since Margaret Thatcher won a third term in office in June 1987, with a 102-seat majority.

As a life-long Conservative voter I am disgusted by the way in which certain members of our party have placed their own careers before that of service to the nation. Conversations with people have convinced me that the artificial storm (so-called 'Partygate') stirred up by Keir Starmer and Ian Blackford (both of whom were also guilty of breaking 'lockdown' restrictions – see Swift, 2022), would have blown itself out eventually, and that Boris could have remained as one of the most popular Prime Ministers in history. People forget such things after a while, for as Harold Wilson famously said: "A week is a long time in politics." Unfortunately, some of the weaker Conservative MPs do not appear to appreciate that they owe their seats to Boris – especially those in the so-called 'red wall' constituencies. They will rue the day that they betrayed him, as I am sure that the vast majority of the public will never forget or forgive the way he has been treated by members of his own Party. What such MPs appear to find it difficult to understand is that any political party that lacks unity in public will never get elected. The affair reminds me of the way in which Margaret Thatcher was brought down – stabbed in the back by her colleagues who were panicking over the so-called 'poll tax.' Again, had MPs held their nerve, it would have blown over as it was principally an artificial crisis, manufactured by the Labour Opposition.

To the undoubted delight of opposition parties, certain cowardly Conservatives, and the greedy and disloyal Cabinet Ministers, we have now seen Boris replaced by Liz Truss – who is currently on her second Chancellor in a matter of weeks, and is presiding over a crumbling financial structure; whether she is the next to fall is, at this moment unknown, but is highly likely. If that were to happen, and yet another MP were elevated to the role of 'primus inter pares', then the Conservatives will never get back into government for at least a decade, if not longer. The weaker Conservatives, egged on by a partial BBC and a poisonous Opposition, aided by a coalition of those who are jealous of his success and those 'remainers' who will never forgive him for Brexit, between them have managed to replace a popular and personable Prime Minister, who gave the Party a massive majority – many of which seats were won as a direct consequence of a number of factors:

(1) Boris's call to 'get Brexit done' – this reflected the national mood when 'leave' won the referendum in 2016. Many people felt betrayed by the powerful urban and London-centric elites, who had tried to stop Brexit ever since the vote through a series of 'stalling actions', such as the call for a 'second referendum'. This included Keir Starmer in his role as Shadow Brexit Secretary – as commented on by the Labour-supporting Mirror (Bloom, 2019), and the Conservative -supporting Daily Mail (Stevens, 2019).

(2) Boris was well-liked as a person – he was personable, and seemed 'human' – something that attracted voters. That Boris was liked by many is explained by the comedian Russell Kane, in an interview with Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair's 'Spin Doctor'), and published in 'Alastair Campbell's Diary' (ie. editorial) in The New European; of Boris, Kane said that he is popular because people "…think they can relate to him. He makes mistakes. He messes about. He's not PC. He's not that bothered what people like you and me think about him. He's a character" (Campbell, 2021).

(3) Jeremy Corbyn was disliked in equal measure, even amongst many Labour voters. As the potential PM, Corbyn was a disaster – putting off many who considered Labour their natural 'home', and as such his continued presence gave the Conservatives a distinct advantage.

(4) Boris was a breath of fresh air, offering strong, certain leadership, and a promise to end the seeming 'drift' or stagnation that characterised Theresa May's leadership.

By getting rid of Boris, rather than standing by him until the 'froth and wind' had settled, the Conservatives have damaged the Party's chances of forming a government at the next election:

(5) The current administration – admittedly only weeks old - appears to have done nothing to consolidate Brexit – to be fair this may change, but at the moment, Truss would have been best advised to continue with the winning 'Brexit' message, and focus on establishing trading links with non-EU countries. She began to do this when she was Foreign Secretary, but once elevated to the top job, she should have pushed for even more, but she appears to have been distracted by listening to those siren voices who benefit from disruption within the Conservative Party.

(6) Whereas Boris was well-liked, Truss was virtually unknown outside the 'Westminster Bubble' – at least until the current 'mini-budget', and the subsequent vitriol it attracted from the media. Truss has a hard job to do economically, as she has to square the circle over tax and spending: a legacy from the previous Chancellor. Sunak promised millions that he would support them during the Covid lockdown, and to be fair he did. What he must have known, however, is that the blank cheque would have to be honoured at some time in the future, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he deliberately presented himself as the 'hard' candidate during the Leadership Contest, knowing full well that he would lose. He must have known that whoever won the contest would be faced with an impossible task, and rather than 'contaminate' himself through involvement with the Truss administration, he preferred to stay his hand, and make another bid for the leadership following what will undoubtedly be a Labour victory in 2024.

(7) Whilst Jeremy Corbyn was cordially disliked – even by members of his own Shadow Cabinet, those Conservative MPs who ousted Boris should take a long hard look at the facts – to begin with, Corbyn is no longer the Leader of the Opposition, and any Labour loyalists who were disinclined to vote Labour because they could not abide the thought of a Labour Government run by Corbyn, now have a choice once more – and it is highly likely that they will return to the Labour fold: after all, the 'push' of Corbyn coupled with the 'pull' of Boris is no longer a consideration. Keir Starmer remains something of an enigma, as he has deliberately kept quiet on certain issues, presumably working on the principle that if he does not show his head above the parapet, he cannot get it shot off. Who know what his policies are today, and what will they be tomorrow? He has 'flip-flopped' over Brexit a number of times – he was against it as the Labour Shadow Brexit Secretary, yet now that the top job is within sight, he appears to be in favour, with the slogan 'make Brexit work'. He has not elaborated further – a quick glance above the parapet, and then back down to shelter in ambiguity.

(8) In contrast with Boris's strong, certain leadership, since his assassination the Conservatives appear to have lurched from pillar to post, and the current batch of 'U-turns' and changes of Chancellor of the Exchequer serves to amplify their indecision.

In view of the turmoil and disruption, it is interesting to note that amongst many Conservative MPs and activists, there is increasing talk of Boris being asked to return (Tapsfield, 2022), which is perhaps a consequence of those who got rid of him asking themselves 'what have we done?' and looking in horror at the latest opinion poll figures of voting intentions: 'were there to be a General Election tomorrow', which give the conservatives only 24.6% of the vote, compared with the 50.0% who say they would vote Labour, and the 10.2% who would support the Liberal Democrats (politics.co.uk, 2022). I am expecting (but not hoping for) a coalition of Labour, the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats, plus assorted Greens and Welsh nationalists to be voted into power at the next election. They will take advantage of the departure of Boris and the chaos that has ensued since, and in conjunction with the BBC, attempt to reverse some of the excellent policies he put in place.

In conclusion, whether his detractors like it or not, Boris has made a significant mark on UK politics (and internationally) in the 21st Century, and for that he should be thanked.

To begin with, there is Brexit, and although we still have problems with Northern Ireland, he managed to do what no other PM has done before – free us from the corrupt clutches of Brussels. For that I thank you, as I am sure does every 'leave' voter.

Secondly, there is the issue of COVID. It was only a government led by such a charismatic and energetic figure that could have managed to ensure speedy, widespread vaccination, and in the process ensure that loss of life was reduced to a minimum. He put his entire efforts into tacking this Chinese-manufactured virus, almost losing his life in the process En passant, it is interesting to speculate how his personal experience of catching Covid early on helped formulate his attitudes to mass – vaccination and protection of the public. Linked to Covid is the question of 'lockdown' – a contentious issue, and one for which the country was not prepared. The financial implications were immense, and both Boris and Sunak did all that was possible. Unfortunately, the energy and money they were forced to expend on tackling Covid, meant that in the initial stages of his government, Boris had neither the time nor the resources to institute the policies that he had wished to focus on.

Finally, there is his defence of democracy in general, and of the continent of Europe in particular, through the magnificent support that he, the USA and others gave to Ukraine. Without the support (military hardware, diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions), that country would not have survived as long as it has. My wife and I were on holiday in Barcelona over Easter 2022, and the receptionist in our hotel was Ukrainian. When she saw our passports, she said that Ukrainians loved the British because of our support for them. She said that Boris is a hero figure in Ukraine, and that they all love him! His early support ensured that not only have the Ukrainian people managed to hold out against Russian aggression, but ironically, their heroic resistance has inspired both Sweden and Finland to join NATO! The exact opposite to the outcome Putin desired!

So, is it hyperbole to say that Boris has largely saved Europe from Russian aggression, defended the UK against Covid, and gained us our independence from Brussels? I think not. With the exception of Margaret Thatcher, I can think of no other UK politician since world war 2 who deserves such an accolade. Sic transit gloria mundi

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Bloom, Dan (2019) "Brexit talks: Keir Starmer demands second referendum in bombshell intervention." Mirror (13th May); https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/brexit-talks-keir-starmer-demands

Campbell, Alastair (2021), "Russell Kane: Why working class people like Boris Johnson." The New European (16th April); https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/brexit-news-russell-kane-why-working-class-people-like-boris-johnson. Poltics.co.uk (2022), "Latest opinion polls: 15 October 2022 – The result of a General Election Today"; https://www.politics.co.uk/reference-latest-opinion-polls

Stevens, John (2019) "Fury at Labour plot to wreck Brexit: No.10 slams opposition bid to sabotage withdrawal bill and force second referendum." Mailonline (20th October); https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7594319/Fury-Labour-plot-wreck-Brexit-No.10-sources-accuse-Jeremy-Corbyn-sabotage.

Swift, Jonathan S., (2022) "Please Keep A Sense of Proportion" Bruges Group Blog (28th January)

Tapsfield, James (2022), "Boris Johnson comeback cannot be ruled out with Tories flatlining in the polls, says ally Nadine Dories as she warns Liz Truss against ditching 2019 manifesto." (9th October); https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article

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