DPA vía Europa Press

The Challenges facing Britain's Conservative Party

Matthew Goodwin

4 mins - 6 de Septiembre de 2022, 07:00

Liz Truss has been elected leader of Britain's Conservative Party and so becomes Britain's latest Prime Minister. After David Cameron, Theresa May, and Boris Johnson, Truss is Britain's fourth consecutive Conservative Prime Minister and third Conservative female Prime Minister (after her hero Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May). And now she faces the most daunting set of challenges since Thatcher first came to power, in 1979.

In the polls –amid a rapidly intensifying energy and cost of living crisis– the Conservative Party is in the fast lane toward a complete wipe-out. This week, in the polls, the party averaged just 31%, which is what John Major polled in 1997 when the Conservatives were almost completely wiped out by Tony Blair and New Labour. Voters, clearly, are punishing the incumbent party for deciding to throw itself into a leadership contest at the same time as their energy bills, inflation, and exasperation with politics are spiralling.

Much of this reflects how the governing Conservative Party is no longer seen by many voters as competently managing the top issues in British politics. On the economy, healthcare, the cost-of-living, housing, education, unemployment, even taxation, the Conservatives routinely trail the opposition Labour Party which has hardly said anything at all. This underlines the old saying: opposition parties do not win elections, governments lose them.

[Recibe los análisis de más actualidad en tu correo electrónico o en tu teléfono a través de nuestro canal de Telegram]

Nor do the Conservatives even inspire much confidence on the other top issues which helped to propel Boris Johnson into power less than three years ago with the largest Conservative majority for more than thirty years. On Brexit, about 80% of British people say it is being managed 'badly'. And on immigration, which has become more far more important to people as rising numbers of small boats carry illegal migrants across the English Channel, most voters say they do not trust any of the big parties to deal with the problem

One of the jokes going around in Westminster is that Boris Johnson is the third Prime Minister to have been brought down by Boris Johnson. After helping to bring down his old Oxford rival David Cameron by campaigning for Brexit and then helping to bring down Theresa May by campaigning against a soft Brexit, Johnson has now managed to bring himself down by failing to bring discipline and leadership to Number 10 Downing Street. 

A promise to fundamentally renew and reform post-Brexit Britain deteriorated into one scandal in Number 10 after another. And this has now had profound consequences. The political realignment of British politics that found its expression after the Brexit referendum is now coming apart. All three groups that were central to Boris Johnson's emphatic victory in 2019 –working-class voters, people without university degrees, and pensioners– are leaving the party. In fact, the Conservatives have now lost about half of the people who voted for them less than three years ago. It has been a masterclass in how to lose friends and alienate your core voters.

By failing to make the most out of Brexit, by delivering a far more liberal immigration policy than many Brexit voters wanted, and by failing to respect principle of fair play and decency –long central to British culture– Boris Johnson lost masses of support in the northern, working-class, and pro-Brexit areas which his party captured from Labour at the last election.

And now things look set to get worse. With inflation forecast to reach as high as 22% in early 2023, an economic recession looming, and widespread talk of a Winter of Discontent –characterised by industrial unrest, sluggish growth, rising prices, and malfunctioning public services– there are good reasons to wonder whether Liz Truss will enjoy the usual 'honeymoon period' for new Prime Ministers. She is gambling that slashing taxes and returning to classic fiscal conservatism will help Britain escape from the crisis, curb inflation, and turn her party's fortunes around. But mainstream economists remain deeply sceptical, arguing that her plans will merely fuel inflation. Truss will be hoping that they are wrong, and she will win her gamble. Because if she does not both her party and the country will be in very serious trouble.
(Here, the Spanish version)
¿Qué te ha parecido el artículo?