top of page

Did Boris kill off conservatism? By Robert Saunders for Unherd - 07.06.22

Updated: Jun 11, 2022

The age of frivolity is over. The battle for Britain is about to begin.

In Boris Johnson however we have a Prime Minister whose character is uniquely ill-suited to the challenges we now face, according to Robert Saunders of Queen Mary University.

How differently things looked when he came to power, Johnson’s character perfectly reflecting the disparate groups which gathered under the Tory banner in the 2019 General Election.

Since then the political and economic landscape has changed beyond recognition. Decisions can no longer be postponed, choices no longer put off. In that context, the complete absence of any guiding philosophy at the heart of this government makes it almost impossible to address the challenges now coming down the line.

Rhetorical flourishes which once delighted his followers now look hopelessly misplaced:

“So long as politics centred on issues of culture and identity, Johnson’s political style could be highly effective. But economic questions are less susceptible to this kind of rhetorical mystification: and those questions are moving remorselessly up the political agenda.

Inflation is already reopening debates about monetary policy, public ownership and the independence of the Bank of England, while wages, industrial action and the cost of living are all surging up the political agenda. The effect is to bring economic and distributional questions back into the political mainstream, opening up questions on which the party is deeply divided.”

On economic questions, at least, “to govern is to choose”. Yet every choice Johnson makes on tax rates, energy bills or public spending infuriates some wing of his party, eager for higher spending, lower taxes, more intervention or more deregulation. And as Brexit moves from rhetoric to reality, the choices already made grow harder to ignore. Johnson can give his party no star to steer by, for he has none. His political compass points only at himself.”

The author concludes:

“Johnson’s leadership is a symptom, not a cause, of his party’s loss of cohesion and direction. It will take a very different skill-set than his to restore it to health and vitality.”

Article for Unherd by Robert Saunders - Did Boris kill Conservatism - 07.06.22
Download PDF • 139KB

Dan Kiltwood Getty Images

18 views0 comments
bottom of page