THERE is no doubt that Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party’s political fortunes have been based on the ‘Red Wall’ constituencies, particularly those in the North, where many lifelong Labour voters voted instead for the pro-Brexit Tories at the last election. This gave PM Johnson his eighty-seat victory, and his fortunes at the next election will be tied up with retaining those borrowed votes. Like Humpty Dumpty, Johnson is sitting on the wall and if he gets it wrong for those voters, he and his MPs will have a great fall.
When I led the great ‘March to Leave’ into Doncaster in April last year, the response from the people of that region was phenomenal and heartfelt. They did not know we were coming, but still car horns hooted and people cheered us on. So many of them said they were disgusted and appalled that the May/Hammond government were selling out the referendum. There is no doubt this was a precursor to the General Election which swept Johnson to power. Doncaster is in my experience typical of towns in the North of England and of many regional constituencies and this view has been confirmed.
Polling commissioned by the Centre for Brexit Policy for their new report Do Not Delay Brexit: The View from the Red Wall, conducted by Savanta ComRes, demonstrates that the Government decision to confirm formally to the EU that it will not extend the transition period will be very popular amongst Red Wall voters. A significant majority of those voters who switched from Labour want the UK to leave the EU properly at the end of this year, deal or no deal, and would be just as hostile to the Johnson government as they were to May and Hammond if he did not deliver.
This is not surprising. Those voters believe in Britain and want sovereignty restored. They also recognise that the EU has been bad for them economically: they pay higher prices for food, consumer goods and energy because of it. Manufacturing has been forced out because of subsidised competition from other EU countries. Public services and jobs are under pressure as a consequence of EU free movement. All this is compounded by the coronavirus crisis.
It might make the self-serving Tory establishment climb the walls to hear this, but if they want to stay on top they must not go weak on Brexit.