The thumping majority by which both the second reading and the programme motion for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill passed yesterday, confirmed that Boris Johnson will have no problem taking the UK out of the EU on January 31st. This sums up the remarkable position that this government is in. It will have done the main thing that it was put in power to do within less than two months of taking office.
The danger for the Tories, as I say in The Sun this morning, is that their new electoral coalition was held together by a desire to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and fear of Jeremy Corbyn, and both of those issues will soon be resolved. As the party’s campaign director Isaac Levido pointed out to Tory MPs on Wednesday afternoon, Brexit and Corbyn won this election for the Tories and both of them will be gone by the time of the next one. So, the Tories must deliver on the domestic front for their new voters.
At political Cabinet on Tuesday morning, this point was rammed home to ministers by both the Prime Minister and Levido. Levido warned that the Tories have ‘not won the domestic policy fight’ yet. He stressed that this election had been about ‘Getting Brexit Done’ more than any other issue. Tory support among Leave voters went from 66 percent in 2017 to 78 percent, and that was key to the victory. Levido was clear that voters were backing the Tories to finish Brexit, not because they had suddenly become Conservatives.
Another danger for the Tories is that Labour’s fundamental brand is nowhere near as damaged as many at Westminster think. With Corbyn gone and Brexit removed as an issue, Labour may well be able to bounce back much faster than expected.
Levido pointed out that the Tories’ own polling of 120 marginal seats had seen the gap between the two parties narrow to just four points in the aftermath of the manifestos, as Labour briefly succeeded in turning the conversation away from Brexit. (The Tories ended up winning these seats by 15 points as Boris Johnson and the Tory campaign pushed Brexit back to the top of the agenda).
The challenge for the Tories is to move fast to deliver change, so that people don’t feel tempted to go back to Labour again. Do this right and over the next decade, Darlington, West Bromwich and Wrexham will become Tory heartlands. Get it wrong, and these places will turn Red again.
Boris Johnson told Cabinet Ministers that voters needed to see and feel change in their A&E, on their roads and high streets. He said there needed to be a clear reduction in homelessness and voters must know that they and their family have a better chance of owning a home.
This election made the Tories a national party again. Now, they must show these new voters that their cares, are their concerns.