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Deciphering the death certificate of Boris Johnson’s political career

Tonhe died Boris Johnson’s certificate for his career in politics was read out on 12 June.A government statement appeared that evening, appointing Alexander Boris de Feffer Johnson as “Steward and Bailiff of the Three Hundred in Chiltern”, headlined Member of ParliamentUnder the UK’s ridiculous constitution, s must accept to resign. He went because an inquiry into whether Mr Johnson had deliberately misled Parliament found he had. Not only that, but he blamed the Commission of Inquiry and joined a campaign of abuse and intimidation against it.Mr Johnson faces suspension Congressman An extraordinary 90 days. The former prime minister resigned in light of the report’s warnings.

The funeral for Mr Johnson’s career was held a few days earlier in a stuffy convention center in Doncaster. Annual Meeting of the Northern Research Group (nrg), the Northern Conservative Cartel Member of ParliamentIt should have been a celebration for those who attributed their careers to Mr Johnson. Instead, it’s a premature wake up.

The tragic gathering is the best place to examine his legacy.this nrg, rather than Britain’s departure from the European Union, represents the pinnacle of Mr Johnson’s political career. It came after the 2019 general election, when the party won an 87-seat majority under Mr Johnson, as voters in northern England backed the Conservatives for the first time in living memory. In 2005, the Conservative Party had 19 North Member of ParliamentSecond. Then in 2019, they managed 68, with voters drawn to Mr Johnson’s promise of a realignment of British politics.

Now, however, the recalibration has reversed. Conservatives are losing everywhere. But the northern constituency, which the party once prided itself on winning, has seen its biggest decline. Nationally, Labor has a 14-point lead in the polls. In the “red wall” constituency, that rises to 23 percentage points, according to one pollster. In Doncaster, people know this.Conservatives rise as Bagehot politely sounds upbeat about Tories’ chances of recovery Member of Parliament Look at him like he’s crazy.

Four years on, Northern voters backing the Tories have had little success.Conservative Member of ParliamentWe’re happy to make excuses. Mr Johnson’s aide, Sir Jack Berry (who holds a knighthood), took aim at the “blob” – a nickname for Whitehall civil servants.Sir Jack disappointed the government spent more money digging a tunnel HS2. A rail line from London to Birmingham to Bradford, the tenth largest city in the UK, than it is prepared to spend on public transport. Oddly, the fact that this was done by his own party was not mentioned.

The problem is more fundamental than simply wrong execution. It is not the first time Mr Johnson has made impossible promises. Voters in the northern seats got four big promises: more spending, less immigration, no new taxes and Brexit. They received one: Brexit. By delivering it, the other three become harder to achieve. Brexit weighs on economic growth. That means governments working to reduce immigration have to increase it to give the economy a boost. Meanwhile, ambitious plans promised by Mr Johnson, such as a new rail line between major northern cities, have been scrapped as Brexit intensifies financial pressures. Regardless, taxes have quietly increased.

instead, Member of ParliamentWe’ve got the bromide best left in the airport self-help booklet. “It’s about being a winner, not a victim,” said Nick Fletcher, Member of Parliament Don Valley, a post-industrial electorate on the outskirts of Doncaster. It’s an admirable sentiment, though one he’ll try to live up to. According to opinion polls, Labor has a 90% chance of retaking the seat. When in doubt, people turn to the vague advocacy that Mr Johnson is fond of. “Raise your hand if you think the North is great,” a chairwoman implored a children’s TV presenter at a fringe event.

In self-help parlance, any reason for optimism comes from a place of negativity. Voting Conservative for the first time is a big deal. “They want to be vindicated,” said Tees Valley Mayor Ben Hutchen, a Johnson ally who had just been named to Mr Johnson’s honor list for his resignation. The shy Tories have won elections for the Conservatives before. Now the party is pinning its hopes on the stubborn. Mostly, however, the Conservatives want Labour to screw up. “I promise Labor will shoot itself in the foot,” said the soon-to-be lord Husson.

Labor will have to lose because the Conservatives don’t want to win. The party is conducting defensive maneuvers. That means placating voters in the Southeast. In the latest budget, the government promised more funding for childcare, which is the least affordable in the south-east. Likewise, pension reforms that let people save £60,000 a year tax-free were sold to surgeons, but mostly to Surrey bankers. The Conservatives need to win voters in the north of England to take power. The party needs to sustain voters in the South to survive.

I know it’s over, it never really started

Mr Johnson’s successor, Rishi Sunak, spoke well when it came to the north. He attached great importance to the fact that he represented the Northern seat, labeling himself “Northern Prime Minister”. The seats are more dry stone than red walls: his parcel consists mainly of two national parks. But the grand promises of the Johnson era are gone. Foretells unremarkable achievements. There will be no new rail between the poorly connected cities in the north, but Treasury has opened an office in Darlington, near Mr Sunak’s constituency.

Instead, Mr Sunak’s speech to delegates at Doncaster turned into a casual eulogy for the form of Conservatism Mr Johnson personified in 2019 but which is dead today. “Without you, there is no path to electoral success,” Mr Sunak said. He is right. It was meant to be a call to battle, but it came across as an admission of defeat. Mr. Johnson is gone. His major political achievements will not live on.

We are hiring (June 12, 2023). The Economist is looking for UK economics writers based in London. For more information and how to apply, click here.

Read more from our UK politics columnist Bagehot:
British politics rife with fake taboos (June 8)
Britain’s New Political Wizard: The Reform Fairy (31 May)
UK voters want more immigration but less immigration (May 25)

Also: How the Bagehot column got its name

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