He brought them a big victory. But he may also be the man responsible for making the Conservatives unelectable in the long termby Emma Burnell / June 24, 2020 / Leave a comment
The Tories have found the apex of a certain kind of Tory-ness in Boris Johnson. He combines a laissez-faire attitude to—well everything—with a born-to-rule demeanour. He was popular with the public for his spirit of public optimism and general demeanour.
However, the cracks are starting to show and that same public that once adored him are increasingly irritated with him. The incredibly damaging Dominic Cummings scandal, combined with a more general lack of grip on Covid-19—the failing of the contact tracing app being just the latest governmental blunder—has helped plunge his approval ratings into the red.
A divided membership
As such Tory politicians are increasingly nervous about Johnson’s ability to turn his own rating around. Whisper it, but they are starting to ask themselves “who next?” But the problem is, they neither have a candidate with Boris’s positives but not his negatives, nor do they have a machine ready to promote an alternative style. There aren’t many politicians like Johnson and for good and ill, he’ll be a hard act to follow.
Even harder will be getting the party to select as next leader someone without at least a little of what has made Johnson an increasingly divisive figure. Their system of choosing the leadership was supposed to protect it from the membership going full-Corbynite and fulfilling the worst instincts of their id. Having their parliamentary party reduce the choices to just two options was a way to weed out candidates who might terrify voters and remind them of just why the Tories are known as the nasty party.
But they now have too many headbangers inside the tent of the 1922 committee to guarantee that there won’t be one on the ballot. And when there is, whoever they’re up against will likely suffer the same fate as that of Jeremy Hunt, whose attempt to be the moderate in the room went down in flames against Johnson’s full-throated Tory Brexiteer. The party is too invested in its most right wing and populist instincts to give them up without a fight.
So while Rishi Sunak may be being talked up in the tea rooms and has become…