December 13, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith
A large majority means a few things. It puts Boris Johnson in an extremely strong position with his party and in Parliament. It means we will leave the EU. It means that the Conservatives will have a lot more seats in the North of England, where more people rely on the public services the Tories are going to run. It means that Johnson can choose, if he wants, to ignore the demands of the Hard Brexit right wing of his party. It may, actually, mean that Boris Johnson COULD actually be the ‘One Nation’ Prime Minister he has insisted he will be.
First of all, he said he would be an electoral asset, and he was. Due to people defecting snd having the whip withdrawn the Conservatives started the campaign with fewer than 300 seats and could have around 70 more. That’s 70 MPs who owe their seats to Boris Johnson. Plus others around the country who were incumbents worried about their majority but who are now safely ensconced for what should be a five year term. They all signed up to his Brexit deal so all will be held to it when he puts it back through Parliament, which he has promised to do before Christmas.
Boris then moves onto the future trading deal. The European Research Group (ERG) had been licking their lips at the prospect of a negotiation going badly enough that the UK leaves with no deal at the end of 2020, or at least a very light free trade deal. But with such a majority, Boris could decide to protect UK businesses with some sort of customs union deal, and if the ERG kick off about it, he could dare them not to vote for it and even withdraw the whip if they don’t. Successive Conservative Prime Ministers have had their hands tied behind their back and twisted hard by the Eurosceptic right wing of the party. This Conservative Prime Minister might not have his hands tied anymore.
What is key is the location of the new seats. They aren’t in Scotland, they are in Wales and the North of England. These are constituencies where public services play a far more important role in peoples’ lives than in ‘normal’ Conservative constituencies. These are constituencies with pockets of poverty far larger than in ‘normal’ Conservative constituencies. These are places where manufacturing is far more important and will be far more negatively affected than in ‘normal’ Conservative constituencies. The MPs who have won these seats will (hopefully) understand these seats and the people in them better than Boris Johnson certainly, and will hopefully hold him to the promises he made on schools, hospitals etc he made during the campaign.
It is possibly true that Labour Leave voters have ‘lent’ the Conservatives their vote for one election in order to ensure Brexit happens. For the Tories to keep these ‘lent’ votes, Boris Johnson will have to deliver on what he called his ‘One Nation’ programme, which, given he has promised no tax rises or borrowing increases, might be difficult.
It may be, then, that a large majority for Boris Johnson means he goes down the road to being a far less extreme Prime Minister with a far less extreme political programme than many people feared.