Boris El Travieso: the disenchantment of the Conservative Party with the magician of Brexit

Daniel Hamilton (35 years old) achieved his position as councilor in the affluent London neighborhood of Wandsworth by just 36 votes difference over his direct rival. In an area with very low local taxes, the Conservatives swept every election, with a margin of 10 percentage points or more over Labour. “It was inevitable. Every neighbor you knocked on the door remembered the Downing Street party affair with disappointment. Of course, it has been a key factor”, recognizes Hamilton, “but also the fact that so many years of Brexit have diluted the identity of the party, which is no longer so attractive”. And the “Boris effect”, with the irreverent but captivating tone of these years, has lost its charm.

Because there is nothing more conservative, in principle, than a dose of hooliganism. Several generations will remember that character named Guillermo the mischievous (William The Bad), in his English school uniform. The imagination of the writer Richmal Crompton introduced, in the interwar period of the 20th century, the necessary measure of optimism and modernity in novels for young adults that gently reaffirmed the apparent natural order of British society.

“There are four types of people who aspire to govern, and they all want to make things better,” his red-haired friend, Ginger, explains to Guillermo in William, Prime Minister (1929). “Conservatives want everything to improve, without anything changing; the liberals, changing things a bit without being noticed; the socialists, taking their money from others: the communists, killing everyone except their own”. Guillermo presented himself as a conservative candidate in a mock election at the school. Of course he wins.

It’s easy to think of Mischievous Boris. For his fellow deputies, Boris Johnson was the candidate who guaranteed victories at the polls. For the members and sympathizers of the Conservative Party, the irreverent and charismatic politician who finally managed to get them out of the EU. “While Johnson’s relationship with most Conservative MPs is essentially transactional, the same is not true for a large part of the party’s membership,” wrote Paul Goodman, director of the website. ConservativeHome, and one of the finest analysts when it comes to scrutinizing the soul of Tories (the historical term by which conservatives are known). “Even today, two out of five want it to go ahead. Many of them have lived through Brexit with passion, and they see in this Prime Minister a symbol of this triumph”, says Goodman.

How is it explained then that 148 deputies, 41% of his parliamentary group, voted last Monday in favor of his dismissal?

Boris Johnson in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday June 8, 2022.Photo: Jessica Taylor (AP) | UK Parliament | Video: EPV

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“Disappointment and boredom. There is no coordination between all of them, but there will be no going back either. Johnson’s honeymoon is over. When the by-elections for the Wakefield and Tiverton constituencies are held on June 23, and we see the rejection of the voters, the number of rebels will increase, ”forecasts Charles Tannock, 64, a doctor and Conservative MEP for two decades. . Rare avis. Part of that conservative branch, now extinct, who believed in the EU and in the need for the United Kingdom to be a key player in the construction of that internal market. Today he remains as hooked on British politics as ever. Without letting go of the phone. But from the sidelines. Out of a party that no longer understands. “They have been in power for almost 12 years. Many of these young people do not even think that they can return to the opposition. Johnson also achieved a landslide victory in 2019, and they believe that it is impossible to lose that majority in a single legislature. But I already believe that it is possible”, warns Tannock.

Although for the rest of the world the Conservative Party of the United Kingdom is associated with titans like Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher, the founding soul -and still present- of that perfect machine to win elections, as it has been defined for almost two centuries, was Benjamin Disraeli. “Two nations without relationship or mutual sympathy; as ignorant of their respective habits, thoughts and feelings as the inhabitants of two different planets. The rich and the poor.” his novel sybil reflects the deep class division of Victorian Britain, and from it the expression One Nation Tory (Conservatives of One Nation), the secret weapon of the party that has governed the longest in the contemporary history of the country. Organized. Distributed locally throughout England. Attractive to a wide section of the working class, whom Disraeli managed to convince that he best served his interests by voting Conservative.

That has always been the intimate aspiration of Boris Johnson: to please everyone. And for a time, for a majority of members and voters, he was the champion of Brexit, the Conservative with a social and liberal vision of politics (his success as mayor of London), and the charismatic hooligan who appealed to that eccentric and irreverent that many voters have inside.

Until a pandemic, and excessive partying in Downing Street during lockdown, ended the collective spell.

-It’s not my case. I never liked the character. He is a populist, and by now he has made it clear that he doesn’t know how to run a country.

—Explain this to me: you voted against Brexit in 2016 and for Johnson in 2019.

—Yes, because he was the only one capable of putting an end to a nightmare in which we had been immersed for more than three years.

This is how George Winch (82 years old) sees it, probably more English than Elizabeth II herself. Every day, with his jacket tweed Scottish (the elbow patches, full of holes and frustrated patches), bow tie and rain hat, delicately tends his small garden in west London. “I will be tory until the end of my days. That is probably what differentiates us from each other when it comes to voting for the same party. Tories and conservatives. I am from the first ones. This sir, Starmer [Keir Starmer, el líder de la oposición laborista], seems moderate and has good manners, but I will never vote for a socialist, ”says this retired former art gallery owner, sitting in his garden. His wife, Kathleen, of Dutch origin, but with a lifetime in the United Kingdom, agrees, but clarifies: “I have not voted and will never vote for Johnson.”

When Disraeli died, the devotion of his followers led them to create the Primrose League, the League of the Primrose. One of those flowers was the crown sent by Queen Victoria, who adored her prime minister. The league organized tea parties, social dances, youth parties and all kinds of events, subtly conveying the conservative mindset to some three and a half million members. Of course, without talking about politics. When the most critical branded this type of electoral marketing as “vulgar”, the response of Lady Salisbury, wife of who was also the soul of the Tories [Robert Cecil], hit the target: “Of course it is vulgar. That’s why we’re so successful.”

In the coming weeks it will be seen if the vulgarity of the parties in Downing Street definitively ends the success of a politician that even his enemies recognize him, or if the “Johnson effect” has ceased to excite the conservative electorate.

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