By Lord Ashcroft
This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday
The increasingly frantic tone of the leadership election suggests that the Conservatives are making a momentous decision that will define their party for years to come. In fact, the idea that the Tories face a grand strategic choice is an illusion. With two years until the next election, the new leader’s only option is to turn out as many of Johnson’s 2019 supporters as they possibly can.
In the last decade the Tory vote has become much more working class and culturally conservative – more Brexity – than when David Cameron entered Number 10 (a result, ironically enough, of his decision to hold the referendum that ended his premiership). It will not be easy to reassemble Boris Johnson’s big, diverse voting coalition, but no new leader can simply trade it in for a new one. It is too late to send new Tory voters home from the party and reissue invitations to people who have already left.
The trick will be even harder to pull off because none of the three stars that aligned to make the 2019 result possible – the Brexit deadlock, Jeremy Corbyn, and Johnson himself – is still in its place.
Most 2019 Tories agree it was time for Johnson to go. But as I found in my new research, out today, that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it (more…)