David Campbell-Bannerman was an MEP from 2009-2019.
Everyone is angry these days. So it is not surprising that MPs are angry with the Prime Minister. And that he is angry with civil servants. And that party members are angry with the government. And that Dominic Cummings is angry at having been fired – though he himself made people very angry over his Barnard Castle tales. And that media is dramatically angry whenever that anger helps to generate stories. And the public are angry anyway, as it often is.
But the truth is that this anger really comes from one source. If we were all to collectively lie on the therapist’s sofa, we would reveal that we are all fed up with Covid – and its impacts that cost precious lives, screw up our families, lives, work, holidays, freedoms and planning. This is what is really making us all angry.
But there is some anger relief in the pipeline – strangely overlooked amidst all of this. For next week the Government is about to remove all remaining Covid restrictions, bar some tests for flying and some minor use of masks. It appears restrictions are to go more fully in March.
This at last could be the end of anger-inducing Covid as we know it. We are on course to be the first in the Western Hemisphere to escape Covid restrictions. We are a world leader in the Booster Programme, and on vaccines, and are emerging as the best performing economy in the G7, with low unemployment and plenty of jobs.
So surely we should be pleased about that – and be earnestly thanking “Three Jabs Boris” for bringing it about.
Our Prime Minister has delivered the original life-saving two jabs and boosters in record time – during a period in which he nearly died from Covid itself, got married and had two children, in the wake of delivering the biggest election victory for the Conservative Party since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1987,
Johnson delivered Brexit, which many said it was impossible (and, yes, is sorting the less satisfactory aspects of the deal, such as the Northern Ireland Protocol). He had the guts to resign over May’s Chequers Proposal.
Before that, he won two London Mayoral elections. That ‘London effect’ became a national ‘Red Wall’ effect. Tony Blair’s and Peter Mandelson’s safe red seats went blue. Amazing!
My contention is that this whirling anger is not making some Conservatives think straight. Many friends and colleagues seem to think we can replace a popular personality and proven election winner – of just over two years ago, not even half way through a Parliamentary term – and just slot in an alternate leader, and then carry on and win the next election no problem. Wrong!
It was Johnson that won those seats, not the Conservative Party, and they would go if he went – something those angry Red Wall MPs putting in letters should realise. Voters backed him, not the party. Lose him; you lose; we all lose. Yes, constituents are angry but it is Covid that is behind it – so ride it out like grown ups.
Consider this. In 2024 the Conservatives will have been in power for 14 years, and voters will be asking themselves: “is it time for a change?”
If we end up – and accidents do happen; look at Theresa May’s non-election and the subsequent Parliamentary trauma that followed – and say we get a May 2 (or 1 again), or a grey Major 2, or a Starmer 2 – someone professional and competent, but more run of the mill, greyer, with less charisma and appeal, then the voter may think there is little choice, and change is worth a bet. We face the prospect of losing the next election.
What we then will face is an utter nightmare: a Lab-LibDem-Green-SNP coalition. If you doubt it, take a look at the SNP and Greens working in Coalition at Holyrood: socialists united. Or at the defacto Plaid Cymru/Labour coalition in Wales under the proto-nationalist, Mark Drakeford. That’s what we will have done by a rush of blood to the head and an extreme reaction.
Brexit will be back in doubt; as Keir Starmer, who constructed Corbyn’s dishonest fudge of a Second Referendum, will look to get back closer with the EU immediately – sign up to EU rules, maybe join the EEA and lose control of immigration and have to enact every Single Market EU law with no say, like Norway It is bound to risk Northern Ireland’s future by agreeing to an unreformed protocol – Labour has no MPs there and contempt for sovereignty. I understand the Rejoin campaign have millions at hand already and design teams in place. Brexiteers disbanded thinking e could trust the May Government to get it done.
As the price of support for Labour, the SNP will get the Second Referendum Boris has out of principle vetoed. Remember, Labour is actively considering allowing pro-Scottish independence Labour candidates to stand in elections, and with just one Scots Labour MP survivor what have they got to lose, if power beckons?
The Liberal Democrats are likely to get a new voting reform opportunity; changing the system so that this leftist coalition becomes a permanent feature, Sweden-like.
If we get the wrong replacement, Nigel Farage will be back in town before you know it. Remember he stood down candidates against Tory MPs last time; backing Boris and Brexit; and won’t do again. Reform took 4% in the North Shropshire by-election, without him. Reclaim is active too. If Johnson is dumped unceremoniously, maybe he will stand for his own party.
The election vote will not be like the Red Wall coalition of 2019, but the weak hanging on of Cameron in 2010, condemning the party to a scraping around for a coalition again with a DUP that will not touch us now due to the Protocol, and with a Sinn Fein First Minister. The line will be all about claimed non-delivery of real Brexit and this may knock a hole in the Red Wall.
So, I say this now, in all sincerity. Please back Johnson now. He deserves our gratitude and loyalty for work to date, and we must give him a second chance. See this anger as justified by the extraordinary behaviour of some Number 10 officials, but mostly driven at root by being fed up at Covid. Of course, big lessons must be learnt. I thought we saw the real Boris making that extraordinary apology in the House – sincere, emotional, willing to take all the responsibility, not deflecting by bashing the opposition.
Would it not be better for Conservative MPs and members to calm down, adopt anger management techniques, and put events into context- while to recognising that there needs to be a far-reaching and radical policy and person reset?
Yes, we need to cut taxes again, park net zero ambitions until the USA, China and India catch up, get on with big Brexit deregulation, and bring good people in who may be critical now – move Steve Baker to the Treasury, for example, and ensure there is a much tighter, more disciplined Number 10, with more grey-haired advisers and fewer kids.
But such major policy changes or reemphasis can be done without jettisoning an unorthodox but proven election winner and remarkable personality.