Johnson has deeply split the Tory party – on an historic level

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It is worth standing back and pausing to consider how remarkable the historic split in the Tory party has been under PM Johnson is just a few weeks.

“One Nation” Tories have been the backbone of the Conservative party for a couple of centuries. But now they have been cast out of the party.

This extraordinary split can be seen in the words of two “One Nation” Tories who now sit in Parliament as independents.

Firstly, we have the great-great-grandson of Tory Prime Minister Lord Salisbury. That is Richard Benyon, the MP for Newbury and “the richest person in the House of Commons”. In his fourteen years as an MP, he had only rebelled against his party three times before Johnson became PM. Indeed, he was regarded as so staunchly loyal then when he rebelled against Johnson on the “Safeguard Act” or “Surrender Act” or “European Act No 2” (or European Bill No 6 as it was), one observer remarked:

Richard bloody Benyon?

If you need any indication of the depth and hugeness of the chasm in the Tory ranks, you need only read these words from his recent Evening Standard column:

My party seems to have become the property of a reckless group of chancers

Secondly, there is an excellent Times clip of Nicholas Soames talking about Brexit and Johnson. At one point he is asked whether he thinks Johnson is like Churchill (Soames’ grandfather):

No, I don’t think Boris is like Winston Churchill because I don’t think anyone is like Winston Churchill. You know, Winston Churchill was who he was because of his experience in life. Boris’s experience of life is telling a lot of porkies about the European Union in Brussels and then coming here to be Prime Minister. He doesn’t like the House of Commons … and I think he is engaged on this great obsession to get us out of Europe with no deal – do or die. That is not Churchill. (He would) think it is extraordinary that we would have thought ourselves so successful, so powerful so well-placed in the world that we could afford to give up this extraordinary relationship we have in this great European Union. I think he would be disappointed.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Richard Underhill. 2nd Oct '19 - 1:01pm

    Described as “an after dinner speech without the dinner”
    by the Editor of the Times Red Box om BBC tv Politics Live.

  • Sue Sutherland 2nd Oct '19 - 1:46pm

    I realise that we want to emphasise how unpopular Johnson is with some members of his own party but all this stuff about ‘one nation Tories’ is really getting me down. If you are correct about Richard Benyon’s time in the party he has been an MP during a time in Tory party history when they have penalised the poorest in the country by cutting back benefits and overseen the huge rise in food banks and he has only rebelled 3 times! I’m not aware that Soames has a voting record that’s any better.
    Anyone who was a Conservative MP under Margaret Thatcher cannot be regarded as a one nation Tory. She and her followers destroyed the post war consensus of which One Nation Toryism was a part. The development of long term trans generational unemployment began under Thatcher. Tories who signed up to that disregard for ordinary people like Chris Patten, Michael Heseltine and John Major are now criticising present day Tories and especially Johnson because they are even more dreadful, more extreme and more callous than they were.
    If we start talking about Tory oldies as good guys what on earth were Liberals, the SDP and Lib Dems doing back in the 80s and onwards opposing their benevolence every step of the way? We fought them because we could see the kind of divided country we would end up with if they continued with their destruction of the welfare state and worship of the market. Well, now they can see it and they don’t like it either and are blaming the latest shower of Tory leaders. I just hope that the Tory party destroys itself before it destroys the country. This is the culmination of what the pursuit of wealth, power and privilege by one section of the population, at the expense of another, has brought us to.
    Lib Dems believe in a fair society for a reason. It is the best society to live in and have a fulfilling life. No one sector of the population should benefit far more than another. That’s why I’m a Lib Dem and reject socialism as well as Toryism and I believe I’m not alone in our party for wanting a better deal for all.

  • Paul Barker 2nd Oct '19 - 2:42pm

    The One-Nation tendency havent been the dominant force in The Conservative Party since the 1970s but theres a huge difference between Right-Wingers who are strongly For The Union, Pro-Business & generally in favour of stability & the English-Nationalist/Libertarians who are running The Tories now.
    Conservatism in the traditional sense is a neccesary part of the Political spectrum & needs to be expressed in a Party. We cannot be that Party because we are not Conservatives but we can provide a temporary home for some of the Left/Liberal fringe of The Tories. In the long run someone will have to establish a New Conservative grouping, but not Us.

  • “The One-Nation tendency havent been the dominant force in The Conservative Party since the 1970s but theres a huge difference between Right-Wingers who are strongly For The Union, Pro-Business & generally in favour of stability & the English-Nationalist/Libertarians who are running The Tories now.”

    How on earth does English nationalism mix with the Hayek/Friedman extreme free markets doctrine which is fancy free of nations? It makes little sense other than as a chosen badge as their creed is not terribly popular with the public. Even in USA they stood well financed candidates against mainstream republicans decades ago and got nowhere until they got inside the Republican Party and made the ideas mainstream, presumably by suggestion from within the brand. It appears similar in the Tory Party

  • Richard Underhill. 2nd Oct '19 - 6:24pm

    Boris’ speech to the party faithful in Manchester contains a reference to his mother
    Although divorced from Stanley and remarried she is presumably still alive, but Boris does not come across as caring by putting her in the public eye in the way he did.
    Did she agree?

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