To the CPS, the think-tank home of Thatcherite free-thinking. On today’s agenda: a sermon from Frank Luntz, the onetime populist Republican sage now reborn as a crusader for cleaner politics. The master of political vocabulary – responsible for such terms as ‘death tax’ and ‘climate change’ – has seen the light and is in the UK to warn of the dangers of the anti-elitist populism he once championed. Luntz told an audience of assembled hacks today that the cost of living crisis is feeding ‘the rejection of democracy as we know it’ with disastrous consequences for the body politic in both Britain and America.
The Coke-drinking Cassandra argues that a lack of political responsibility is corroding public life and that the elites in Washington and Westminster simply don’t understand the economic pain that many ordinary voters are going through. ‘It is a mistake to assume that the average individual waits for the declaration of a recession when they already think you’re living in,’ according to Luntz. Yet while many on both sides of the Atlantic are quick to link the name of Boris Johnson with that of Donald Trump, he believes his former university chum is far the intellectual superior: ‘Boris has written more books than Trump has read: there is a massive difference between the two, they’re really not the same.’ And Luntz – who went on an Oxford Union debating tour with Johnson in 1986 – was quick to speak in support of his fellow Oxonian, telling journalists that:
If I were a Conservative, I would be very wary about dumping the Prime Minister when he still has undeniable appeal among voters that had not voted Conservative before. There is something impactful about Boris that I don’t see in other Conservatives. That may not show itself in London or in the south but it absolutely shows itself in the Midlands and in the north. And I say this so carefully but it is accurate.
Luntz, though, is not an uncritical Johnson fan, given his fears about Britain’s direction of travel. Responding to last week’s local election results he said that ‘I didn’t see Labour trouncing the Conservatives’ but that ‘these are serious times and require serious leadership, it’s not a matter of toning anything down, it’s a matter of serious solutions and a serious approach. I use that word again and again because it matters that much. He should be who is he: he can’t be anything else other than who he is but there must be a serious component to it.’
For those in Westminster keen to learn more from the Pennsylvanian prophet and his warnings of doom: there is one ray of light among the darkness. Luntz is set to stay for a while in the UK, telling Mr S that, having conducted briefings on political disrepair for congressmen in Washington, he is about to begin doing the same here in London. He said: ‘I’ve not done it yet for MPs, that’s about to start’ adding ‘those who want to get to a successful conclusion have absolutely embraced this, those who want to make a statement rather than a difference, have not.’
Will Boris be signing up to hear his old Oxford mate warn him about the importance of responsibility in public life?
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