Monday 10 October 2022

What will happen when the Red Wall MPs realise they won't be 'levelled up'?

This post first appeared in the RadixUK blog...

I tend to agree with Ben Rich last week, in his assessment of the new government, that – however much we may worry about the robotic speaking style of our new prime minister – the politics will not change.

That is all true, except for one consideration. The electoral system, which has kept Conservatives in power for most of the past ha;f century, has a habit of sometimes wiping out parties being punished by the electorate completely – as the Canadian Conservatives were a generation ago, and as everyone else was by the SNP in Scotland in 2015.

That seems an unlikely prospect, but it is one to consider. It would put the Labour Party into power with such a boosted Commons presence that we could not be quiet sure who would lead them, with the Lib Dems as official opposition. That would be exquisitely uncomfortable – and would require a swing to the right from my former Liberal colleagues which they might feel unable to make.

The main point of this is that Liz Truss and her government now have to choose between producing an economic plan that satisfies the global  markets and one which they can also get through the Commons.

The Guardian was even speculating that – with 30 Tory MPs unlikely to support them, Liz Truss might need to make another U-turn on increasing benefits in line with wages, rather than with inflation.

According to the Daily Mail, Michael Gove is plotting to bring back Boris Johnson.

This seems unlikely, but where in all this dispute has the Big Idea gone to that Boris brought to the table: Levelling Up?

Because if that idea has gone – as it appears to have – then the Red Wall Conservative MPs who were elected on that basis will be in serious trouble.

It would make sense for them qucily to start meeting as a group and to whip themselves, as far as possible as a coherent group, rather like Labour’s relationship with the Co-operative Party.

Yet also with a view to going their own way if necessary.

Think tanks like Radix have always had an interest in new political groupings. And it would be enormously worthwhile to advise the Red Wall Tories about policy – about how to encapsulate the new approach to regeneration – if only they would ask us!

In fact, if anyone ever asked my advice about what to do and how to apply it, it would be to stay completely  ambiguous about your intentions as long as you possibly can…

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