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If Boris wins, he will destroy the Tory party

A generation of kids will grow up associating Conservatism with cold, hunger and political disaster. He’ll only make it worse

Image: The New European

Boris Johnson wants to become prime minister. Again. A second dose of Johnson would be entirely in tune with this bleak moment of national humiliation. 

If he ran and if he won, he would make everything worse. The country would immediately be plunged into the drama of his investigation by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee. He would be called before a panel of MPs, and grilled, live on television, on the question of whether he lied to the Commons. The papers would be choked with stories about his sordid time in No10, about all those parties, about how he broke the rules during lockdown. If the committee were to conclude that he had lied to the Commons, then he could face losing his parliamentary seat.

Which would mean the same Johnson loyalists out again in the lobby, yacking away on the BBC, spouting the same old line that it was all a Remainer plot to oust brave Boris, and that parliament was overstepping the mark by investigating him and that really the whole thing ought to be shut down because only Boris has a mandate and that to investigate him was against the will of the people. At the same time, a wave of anti-Boris Tory MPs would resign the whip, unable to stand the sight of him as PM. The party has already chucked him out once, they would argue. Why the hell is he back again? It’s not as if he’s turned into a different person. The governing party would split apart.

It would be chaos, and if the dreadful Truss experiment has taught us anything, it is that chaos doesn’t work. A country that can’t run itself, that looks like a joke and which seems content to go back in time, rather than forward, does not inspire confidence. The fact that Johnson’s campaign is being run by Jacob Rees Mogg, an escaped Edwardian, would only add to the sense of Britain being thrown into reverse.

Markets don’t like lending to people, or companies or countries in a downward spiral. Borrowing costs would rise. Mortgages would become even more expensive. The buy-to-let market would start to collapse. Landlords would begin selling into a falling market. House prices would sink and the number of people in negative equity would rise.

Johnson would lead the country into a winter crisis of eye-watering hideousness. Inflation in double digits is already driving up food prices and that will only get worse. Thousands of people will not be able to heat their homes, pay their mortgages or afford food. And there, in the centre of it all, would be Johnson, with his after-dinner speaker’s quiver full of amusing asides, trying to make out that it’s all going to be alright in the end. 

The Labour Party will be relishing the prospect of a second Johnson term. The latest opinion poll shows Labour on 53% and the Conservatives on 14%. If that result were repeated at a general election, the Tory party would win between five and zero seats. They would be gone. 

Johnson’s supporters argue that he is the man for the job because he is a “winner”. Well, against Jeremy Corbyn, perhaps. But Johnson is now up against a very different Labour party, which would simply point out that Britain’s current political turmoil is all his fault. He was the face of the Brexit campaign, which stuffed David Cameron. He was the one who destroyed Theresa May. He was the one who, by his own weakness of character, soiled his own stay in Downing Street, and brought his time as PM to a disastrous close, leading to the Truss catastrophe. Johnson has broken everything he has touched. He will do it all over again.

Though it might be satisfying for some people to watch the final collapse of the Conservative Party, the consequences should give pause for thought. Yes, if the Tories take him back, they will deserve everything they get. But the collapse of one of the poles of British politics would lead to a fundamental imbalance. The tension between the instincts of right and left is what keeps a two-party system in a state of equilibrium. What happens then if one of the sides disappears? You would have a colossally powerful Labour government, but nothing to offset it.

In that scenario, the post-collapse Tory party would be an extra-parliamentary grievance association, mostly made up of wealthy, southern English pensioners, fuming over the Telegraph. But no one would take them seriously. The memory of the Tory years, of Austerity, Brexit, Johnson, Truss, the “mini-Budget” and the near total collapse of Britain’s political system and international standing, would come to be intimately associated with Toryism. Conservatism would be seen as the experiment that failed.

Kwarteng tried hard-right economics and he crashed the pound, the bond market, the mortgage market and the pensions system all at the same time. Britain attempted to cut itself off from immigration, but found it didn’t have enough working age people. Food bank use spiked. Productivity stagnated. The country became more economically uneven – all of this happened under Conservative rule.

Before Britain sank into a political crisis, the number of 18-24 year old Tory voters was around 14%. If you add that extremely low number to the return of Boris Johnson, then you have a picture of a party with no future. Kids growing up now will learn that the Tories were a disaster, not because they were told so, but because they will be able to feel it. The Tories were the reason mummy and daddy couldn’t afford the house any more and why they had to move in with gran. They were the reason the house was so cold, why they didn’t get a bike for Christmas.

If Boris Johnson gets back into power, he will make Britain’s crisis even worse. And he will destroy the Conservative Party – quite possibly for good.

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