With Boris Watch, we hope to keep an eye on the government, the wider Conservative Party as led by Boris Johnson and the character of the man himself, focussing especially on matters important to the traditional, social conservative voters who lent their support to the party in 2019.
A senior government official and colleague to Dominic Cummings, Tim Leunig, has argued that the food sector is not important to Britain’s economy. Of course, when one dares not to assume that GDP and prices are the be-all-and-end-all, this comment is ludicrous. It is naïve to think this country could happily import all of its food and not be at the mercy of those it imports from.
Read more on last week’s ‘Last Orders’, by Michael Psaras.
No doubt, the government will flood its social media accounts with images of the new blue British passport, which will be given to applicants from next month.
Figures who do this are, however, likely to miss out the fact these are to be made by a Franco/Dutch company, in a Polish factory. The contract was awarded by the government to a subsidiary of the company Thales, as the British competitor, De La Rue, lost out. It seems the government knows the price of all, but the value of nothing – including national pride.
As we left the EU last month, Boris promised ‘real national renewal and change’. Yet, it seems billions are still to be spent on useless vanity projects, and nothing can be forked out to ensure a national symbol can be produced in this nation.
Followers of this record will remember the recent reprimanding by the Tory party of the Shrewsbury and Atcham MP who attended a conservative conference in Rome. (See here.) The government was far more relaxed when it came to controversial remarks – regarding eugenics and race – made by a Cummings import, Andrew Sabisky. (Mr. Sabisky quit himself after Downing Street refused to condemn his former comments.)
This is telling of the party’s attitude towards conservatism – it is quick to scorn those who engage themselves in conservative thought (think also of the previous treatment by the “Conservative” Party of the late Sir Roger Scruton – see here), yet throws its weight behind defending silly, pithy remarks. Clearly, those who believe Johnson’s administration is conservative are mistaken.
It is telling of the government's anti-conservative leanings that it held firm on refusing to condemn a new advisor over old comments, yet was quick to reprimand @DKShrewsbury for attending a conservative conference.#BorisWatch. https://t.co/zMjwRBDtRx
— Bournbrook Magazine (@bournbrookmag) February 17, 2020
Johnson, who champions himself as the ‘People’s PM’, has found himself in hot water after enjoying a get-away with his girlfriend in Mustique – costing a modest £15,000.
The 2019 Tory manifesto was full of rhetoric pitting those who have been ‘left behind’ against the Westminster elite who claim to ‘know best’. As we are finding more and more often, the rhetoric is far removed from the substance.
Labour is asking for a formal inquiry into the funding of this holiday (see here).
One per cent of government infrastructure spending will go to flood defences, though a third of this is to be spent in London and the South East alone, leading to criticism that the north is being overlooked (see here). Now the Conservatives have received their votes from ex-Labour traditionalists in the north, they seem to have forgotten their promises to boost areas above London.
Boris’ attempted power-grab went horribly wrong this morning, as Said Javid resigned his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer in protest over government attempts to force his hand, and sack all of his advisors.
For such a huge resignation to come so early in the PM’s premiership is damaging enough, but the replacement he has brought in raises other questions. Rishi Sunak was, as recently as seven months ago, a junior housing minister – now he has the second-most important job in the country.
Already, several media outlets on the right of the political divide are heralding his appointment as a success, because he campaigned to leave the EU – it seems like Brexit is “done” until it becomes beneficial for the government to bring up. (See here).
The Conservative Party has given the go-ahead to HS2, in spite of its exhorbitant costs and lack of popularity among traditional, social conservative voters; only eleven per cent of Northeners believe the North will benefit more than the South through this project, according to a recent YouGov poll (see here). The only people who will see a benefit will be Londoners and big-city commuters. See Thomas Spencer’s comment on this for Bournbrook here.
The government is doing what it can to appear tough on crime and, in particular, terrorism. Legislation, which the PM aims to make law by the end of the month, will prevent convicted terrorist from being released from prison automatically, without review.
The rhetoric is, however, tougher than the substance, as terrorists will still only be required to carry out two-thirds of their sentences before being assessed, thus adding no rigour to the justice system’s current flimsiness. So much for doing ‘whatever it takes to keep the public safe’. (See here.)
A theme is beginning to establish on this record; the Conservative Party seems to be obsessed with gimmick. A bridge connecting Scotland and Northern Ireland is not itself a bad thing, but the timing of considerations by the Tories on such a project could not be worse (see here).
We are less than two months into Boris’ premiership. Even a repeat of the old Tory trope ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – with investments to schools, transport and other services north of London – would be more productive than this continuation of the prime minister’s love affair with bridges. This project would do little to benefit Scottish or Northern Irish workers and appears to favour (temporary) employment for employment’s sake. Not to mention the difficulties posed by the extreme depth of the sea in certain areas, and the littering of thousands of Second World War incendiary bombs along its bed (see here).
Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, has been told by the “Conservative” Party that his appearance at a conservative conference was ‘not acceptable’. The conference was held in Rome and featured guest speakers such as Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and former Deputy PM of Italy Matteo Salvini. Mr. Kawczynski has apologised for his unthinkable action (see here).
This is bad enough. What’s worse is that Mr. Kawczynski made it quite clear the week before attending said conference that:
‘Orban and Salvini are not to everyone’s tastes, of course. And I don’t agree with each and every one of their policies. But I am not Hungarian or Italian and both leaders have been elected on huge popular mandates in their countries. They represent serious ideas and concerns, some of which are shared by people in Britain. They have every right to speak at a conference on the subject of national sovereignty, which they have pledged to defend and which accounts for their popularity with voters… It is only common sense to talk with parties and politicians that are either leading their respective countries, or will perhaps take power in the next few years. It would be foolish not to do so.’
(The Spectator: here.)
The MP was well justified in attending – and speaking at – this event, especially considering his above views.
At 11 pm, Britain has left the European Union. This is not, however, the end of Brexit; rather the process has only just begun (after more than three years of political squabbling). Boris now has to work hard to maintain the support of the traditional, social conservative voters he picked up at the last election.
A truly historic moment today as the prime minister signed the withdrawal agreement which lays the ground for Britain’s departure from the European Union.
We will leave at 11 pm on Friday. This departure is particularly important for the many traditional, social conservative voters who turned to the Conservatives at the election – after having previously supported parties such as UKIP – due to a belief that the party holds – and wishes to implement – their patriotic values. Other than on Brexit, there is little to suggest that this is actually the case (see here).
Boris is not only considering moving the Tory HQ northwards (see here) but also the House of Lords – possibly to York.
Such a move has been labelled a ‘power grab’ which would cost billions (see here). It is no more than a gimmick; the Conservative Party hopes to appear supportive of traditional (especially ex-Labour) voters whilst doing very little – in terms of substance – to represent their values.