No More Confidence
An incompetent Prime Minister is preventing the government from not only supporting the nation, but also delivering his own agenda. Tonight, Conservative MPs get the final say on if this continues.
Let me take you back to the night of December 12th, 2019. After three and a half years of dithering and delay, Boris Johnson had promised to ‘Get Brexit Done’. Unlike Theresa May’s compromise, the new Prime Minister would break-off EU negotiation if necessary, without regard for the people of Northern Ireland. He promised a dangerous new review into the constitution with the possibility of strengthening the executive and squeezing the judicial. This was compounded by a new “Bill of Rights” to completely replace the Human Rights Act which could serve to diminish everyone’s individual liberties.
On that night Corbynism both died and went truly mainstream. It may have felt as if ‘Boris Brexiteers’ now had absolute control, which they effectively did, with an eighty seat majority the Government can set out nearly any policy to parliament without hassle or delay. Much of the Labour membership and a substantial portion of the public saw this as quite literally the end of Britain as a nation. The Prime Minister was liar, racist, misogynist, climate denier, and we as a nation were no better than the Americans and their similar President. Under these circumstances, what was the argument against Scottish nationalism? Between Miliband and Corbyn the Labour Party had crafted an enormous radical policy agenda which culminated in the 2017 Labour Manifesto, “For the Many not the Few”. What was a reasonably clear somewhat understandable message devolved into an incoherent rambling of niche unachievable policy on literally every issue in the 2019 campaign. This compared with the Conservatives’ authoritarian but clear and simple messaging only enhanced the public’s feelings at the ballot box. An exodus of Momentum and Trotskyite members, and a resignation of the soft left to moderates soon followed. The entire policy list was effectively scrapped, and Keir Starmer was elected leader with an enormous majority. This was a new opposition to a new government, and nothing would ever be the same again.
On the other side of the wall, austerity had been toppled by the same Conservatives who introduced it; government economic interventionism was truly reborn for the first time since bank bailouts. Reasonably successful climate policy (in comparison to other right-wing governments around the world) was put in place. It was a perfectly crafted position to reset the clock on over nine years of Conservative government that would appeal specifically to the ‘Red Wall’. In the first days of the Johnson administration before the snap election, he threw out tens of Remainers and ‘traitors’. MPs that made the ERG look moderate campaigned against lockdown. Centre-right MPs and Lords continued their fight against Johnson’s withdrawal agreement from inside and out. This all came to nothing, so long as the Prime Minister is an ‘electoral asset’ there will be no calls for him to go, and he could whip MPs into any bill.
The Government still have a majority of over seventy-five seats yet the Institute for Government analysis shows only 27% of manifesto pledges have been delivered after two years, remembering this was in December 2021. Granted the pandemic had a huge effect, it cannot be said that other governments did not also face major challenges which derailed legislation. In comparison May’s 17-19 government managed to deliver on over 30% of their policies, despite dramatically burning in only two years and having to handle the Brexit deadlock the entire time. Only 55% of pledges are set to be completed by the end of this parliamentary term (if it even finished before a snap election). Blair delivered on 89% of his manifesto promises in five years. He has the majority, he has the cabinet, in fact he has had more legitimacy than May in her first two years. The truth is that the pure ineptitude in Downing Street has prevented even the most objectively necessary reactive policies such as a working cost-effective Test and Trace system, proper vetting of PPE contracts, or a Windfall Tax have all been delayed beyond unnecessarily or failed entirely. Press releases such as bringing back imperial measurements or deportations to Rwanda prove that forward looking policy creation is the last thing on the Government’s list of priorities. They have instead bet everything on Boozy Boris’ personal character, good luck with that. This puts Labour in a most difficult and yet easy position. We have just scrapped our entire platform, it can take years for an opposition to complete a full policy debate, and now we must prepare for election and subsequently government at a moment’s notice. On the other hand, if the Tories wish to fight on personal character, a lawyer with a proven track record no matter how stale will always defeat the insanity of our current Prime Minister.
The primary objective of Conservative Members of Parliament is self-preservation; this is why Thatcher was ousted on the fabled “Night of the Long Knives”, with a swift change of direction the Tories saved themselves from being defeated by Neil Kinnock. One of the worst things a party can do is show internal division and by realigning under Major they had once again shown a united front. Not only united, but united under a more stable and moderate leader who was willing to compromise for the better, to admit mistakes and correct them. Surely this will be what leadership hopefuls such as Jeremy Hunt and Tom Tugendhat will want to portray. The Prime Minister is under attack from every section of society and his own party. In politics, when confidence is lost, it cannot be regained.
From a purely selfish perspective, Boris Johnson is exactly what Labour needs to win power, but the country simply cannot withstand any longer with him as the Prime Minister. Whatever happens tonight, Labour must be ready to pick up the pieces, that means supporting Starmer and focusing on defeating this government.