The Conservative Party is facing a stark choice, says Peter Bingle – to support Boris and regain the political initiative or destroy itself.
In a few weeks’ time, we will have a new PM. Boris Johnson is everything that his hapless predecessor was not. He has charisma, a vision and a radical domestic policy agenda which will help the Tory Party regain the political initiative. Most importantly of all, Boris connects with people of every race, religion or background. Like Heineken, he reaches parts of the electorate which are beyond the reach of anyone else. And crucially he makes us smile, chuckle and even laugh.
Put Brexit to one side and Boris is not a traditional right-winger. He is a Liberal on social issues and a Tory on matters economic. He is most certainly a populist but crucially he is also popular. Boris is the only senior Tory who can make the Brexit Party irrelevant, expose the Lib Dems for what they really are and destroy Corbyn’s hard-left Labour Party.
On Brexit, Boris is likely to be able to leave with a deal. There are a number of reasons. The first is that forty or so Labour MPs have to be seen to vote formally to support Brexit before they face their constituents. The second is that now that ‘No Deal’ is back on the negotiating table the EU will make concessions. (Do they really want to lose £39 billion and take the blame for imposing a hard border in Eire?) The third is that President Macron is very likely to state publicly that he will not support an extension past the end of October. So deal or no deal, we are leaving the EU on Halloween.
In terms of his domestic agenda, Boris is being advised by his former Chief of Staff at City Hall, Sir Edward Lister. There is no better adviser and news of his inclusion in the new PM’s inner circle has been widely welcomed. One of the greatest strengths of the new PM is his choice of senior advisers. May had the hapless Gavin Barwell. Boris will have Sir Edward Lister.
All of this augurs well for a Boris premiership. He has the potential to dominate British politics for the next ten years. There is just one problem. A small group of Tory no hopers at Westminster who seem prepared to vote with Corbyn et al in a motion of no confidence and facilitate an early general election. Those who the Gods wish to destroy they first make mad.
This tragic scene will only be played out, however, if the new PM is forced to opt for a no deal Brexit option. That is highly unlikely to happen. But what does it say about those Tory MPs who are even prepared to countenance supporting a Corbyn government? Their associations need to sack them.
The chances are that Boris will secure a deal and that we leave the EU on Halloween. If this happens, he must then immediately use the £26 billion ‘headroom’ to create the economic climate for a big Tory majority in early 2020. Tory voters do not want increased public spending except in areas such as police numbers, nurses pay and the military. They prefer tax cuts, less government interference in their lives and a state which encourages enterprise and hard work. Boris understands this.
In the meantime, Boris must appoint ministers who support him, embrace realpolitik and restore effective management of both the economy and also of the Tory Party at Westminster. Crucially, Boris needs a Party Chairman of the calibrate of Cecil Parkinson and Norman Tebbit. The Tory Party machine used to be superb. That is no longer the case.
Over the next few weeks and months the Tory Party has a choice. To support Boris and regain the political initiative or destroy itself? I trust that sanity will prevail …