October 6, 2022

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Without Boris Johnson, the Tories fear they could lose the ‘red wall’ of northern England

When it was time for questions from the chamber, Rishi Sunak spoke for half an hour in front of a thousand members of the British Conservative Party gathered at the Darlington Hippodrome on Tuesday, August 9. A man gets up and says to him: “You know what they say: He who wields a knife wears no crown. » His remarks were met with applause.

Rishi Sunak, one of the two candidates to lead the party, was among those who precipitated Boris Johnson’s downfall. By handing in his resignation on July 5 while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he set off a snowball effect that eventually led to the planned exit of the British prime minister.

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In Darlington, in the north of England, some activists did not forgive him. The disheveled blonde troublemaker was their hero and gave them electricity. “It was wrong to expel him.”A contrite 69-year-old Ken Clarke sips a glass of white wine as he leaves the theatre. He became a Tory member two years ago precisely because he liked this politician “Brought a breath of fresh air”. John Watts, a 59-year-old retired police officer (“I seem short, don’t I? »), confirms that: “When I listened to Boris Johnson, he had me spellbound. He was, at least, not boring. »

Not to be outdone is Liz Truss, the other contender for the Conservative Party leadership and favorite to win. In front of the same activists, he recalled that he had not resigned (he was still foreign minister) and had never betrayed Boris Johnson. “I was one of the first people to support him [en 2019, quand il a pris la tête des tories]. And I don’t believe he lied to Parliament.He answered a question from journalist Tom Newton Dunn, who hosts the evening.

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A gaping hole that is hard to fill

Boris Johnson may be loathed by some Britons, angering his European partners and resenting his own MPs, but his political charisma leaves a void that conservative activists are struggling to fill. The question is particularly sensitive in Darlington, a small town of one hundred thousand people situated between Leeds and Newcastle. In December 2019, the constituency, once a Labor stronghold, went to the Conservative camp for the first time since 1992.

This is part of the downfall of success “The Red Wall”, 40 constituencies in the North of England that traditionally voted Labor and switched to the Conservative Party in 2019. The shift to the right in the north of the country was the foundation of Boris Johnson’s victory, bringing back the Conservative Party. Largest majority in Parliament since Margaret Thatcher. He had three main assets to present in these regions: his explosive personality, Brexit (Darlington polled 56%) and a promise. “Rebalance the Country”To reduce disparities between North and South.

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