The Conservative Party is lurching even further to the right after Boris Johnson
All the declared candidates to become the UK's next Prime Minister appear determined to accept the hard right political agenda pursued by Johnson.
You might have assumed that the departure of Boris Johnson would have prompted some deep soul-searching among Conservative MPs about the disastrous direction he took their party in over the past few years. If so, you would have been wrong.
Almost all of the many candidates to replace him have so far been queuing up to endorse his regressive policies on everything from breaking international law, to deporting refugees to Rwanda, to weaponising the plight of trans people for political gain.
Even Tom Tugendhat, who has been portrayed as the one ‘moderate’ or even ‘centre left’ candidate in this race, backed Johnson’s position on all of these issues in a series of interviews in the past 24 hours.
Asked about this on Sky News this morning, Tugendhat said that following through on Johnson’s plans to break his international agreement with the EU over Brexit would give the UK a “clean start”.
This phrase was repeated by Tugendhat no fewer than 15 times during the interview, yet in almost every matter of substance, he actually appears to be proposing a continuation of Johnson’s agenda, rather than a break from it.
Other candidates have been competing to go even further than the Prime Minister with the Attorney General Stella Braverman promising to take the UK out of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Braverman has not explained how she would achieve this without putting the Good Friday Agreement at risk, but in the post-Johnson era such explanations are possibly no longer necessary.
Crucially almost all of the candidates have been competing to offer even bigger tax cuts to big business than were offered under Johnson, without explaining how it will be paid for, or what public services will be slashed in order to pay the bill.
It’s fair to point out that there were a couple of minor digressions from Johnson’s agenda in this morning’s broadcast rounds. Jeremy Hunt said he didn’t agree with the Prime Minister’s plan to scrap the BBC license fee and Grant Shapps gave a surprisingly humane and principled defence of the rights of trans people to live their lives as they see fit.
But aside from those two examples, the overwhelming majority of Tory candidates appear determined to keep the party sailing on exactly the same rightwards course as Johnson, and are only keen to point out that they would like to go further and faster than their predecessor.
Now it’s possible that such positioning will be abandoned after the contest has finished. Keir Starmer has ditched almost all of his pledges designed to win over Labour’s left-leaning membership, and it is possible that the winner of this contest will do the same.
But the sheer unanimity of the hard right consensus on display this morning suggests that whoever takes over from Johnson will inherit a party determined to push the political debate in the UK even further to the right than it has been over the past three years.
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