MPs from key districts of northern England, the former Labor ‘red wall’, have organized to pressure the central government
Boris Johnson came to believe that he was (politically) immortal. And he certainly had reasons for it. He won twice the mayor of London when the capital had always been an impossible place for the conservative ‘Tories’, he opted for the Eurosceptic campaign when no one gave any real possibility to Brexit and, in his first general elections as a candidate, he led the Conservative Party to an absolute majority not seen since the time of Thatcher.
This last great victory was possible precisely because the key districts of the so-called “Red Wall” left the Labor Party, for the first time since World War II, to give their confidence to an eccentric politician who assured them a final divorce with the EU. The ‘Tory’ deputies from the north of England were called to be the great support of this legislature. But they have become the biggest threat to the Downing Street tenant, opening a veritable civil war in the making. The truth is that, beyond Brexit, it gives the feeling that there is nothing that really unites the party now. Leadership falters. For the first time in his career, Johnson has realized that he is not immortal.
The creation of the so-called “The Northern Research Group” (NRG) is vital to understanding the extent to which Johnson’s position is actually in danger. Sources consulted by Revyuh assure that the ‘premier’ has too many open fronts. “Next year is going to be really difficult for him. With the pandemic, the independence threat in Scotland and the rebels in the north there is a lot of tension. It is not ruled out that in a period of between 12 and 18 months he may be out. He knows better than anyone that the rebels can make the leader’s life miserable”. They assure, in reference to when Johnson himself made life impossible within the ‘Tories’ ranks for then Prime Minister Theresa May.
The NRG has become a “separate party within the party”, with its own strategy and interests, very different from those traditionally held by the conservatives. The ‘Tories’, after all, had never had to worry about the working class of the north of England, because they had never been represented there. But what the new deputies want now is to keep their seats and prevent these voters from abandoning them once the bloc’s exit has taken place to support Labor again.
Very touched by the pandemic
In this sense, what they demand is that Johnson fulfill his electoral promise of ‘leveling up’, an expression that triumphed in the 2019 generals campaign and that came to express the idea of balancing things, that is, ending the differences between north and south and decentralize in some way the power of the capital.
With the pandemic, the ‘Tory’ deputies of the new “Blue Wall” denounce that the promise has been broken. They consider that when London was the center of infections, a nationwide lockdown was decreed, but now the most dangerous outbreaks are concentrated in the north, the Executive is betting on local closures that suffocate an economy that is already quite affected.
With at least 55 members, the NRG has more than enough backing to overturn Johnson’s House of Commons majority. And this is of great concern in Downing Street because, beyond the pandemic, the ‘leveling up’ has become a brand, a battle cry. And the fact that no one really knows how this balance between north and south should materialize makes the rebels and their brand even more powerful.
For its particular battle, the NRG has been inspired by the “European Research Group”, whose members – the most radical Eurosceptic ‘Tories’ – made Theresa May’s life completely miserable during the arduous Brexit negotiations, ultimately forcing her resignation. It was they who managed to get the UK out of the single market and union as well. It was they who were in charge of putting Johnson at Number 10 to guarantee the divorce. Therefore, the ‘premier’ now knows everything that is at stake.
On Monday night, without warning, the NRG published an open letter to Johnson demanding a common strategy on the restrictions – now England is divided into three tiers – and more aid. To the delight of its signatories, the letter made the front page of four national newspapers the following day.
When the Treasury Minister, Rishi Sunak, was asked by the BBC about the situation, the answer was not wasted: “I am a deputy from the north. I represent a constituency in North Yorkshire, south of Teesside, and I am also a ‘Chancellor’ from the north. Ultimately, the man everyone says could succeed Johnson as prime minister made it clear that he is a ‘Tory’ from the north. Whoever wants to read between the lines should do so.
Among the signatories of the controversial letter were Esther McVey, former Labor Minister; David Davis, the former Brexit minister; and David Mundell, former Scottish minister. In short, they are heavyweights who know how to organize and target where the government hurts the most. But, above all, stands out the leader of the group, Jake Berry, a man who has a pending account to settle with the prime minister.
District MP Rossendale & Darwen helped secure Johnson’s election as the leader of the formation in the primaries and later became the creator of the ‘leveling up’ slogan that secured support in the northern districts, the key to winning the absolute majority. Berry undoubtedly expected to be rewarded with an important Cabinet position. However, he was expelled in the first restructuring in February last year. And there is nothing worse in politics than the desire for revenge. According to the Westminster huddles, Berry is “really upset” with the ‘premier’ and this is going to be a problem because “the tension between north and south is going to be there for a long time.”