BORIS JOHNSON has turned Britain’s political map upside down after winning the General Election on the back of his promise to ‘get Brexit done’.
Working class voters in many of the poorest parts of Yorkshire – and the North – are now represented by Tory MPs for the first time in history.
They clearly have more faith in the Prime Minister than other parts of the UK – electoral swings to the Conservatives here were greater than in the South and Home Counties.
And this is even more extraordinary coming at the end of a political decade that has been dominated, to varying degrees, by Tory austerity.
Normally governments and parties are worn out after a prolonged period of power.
Now the Tories are reinvigorated and re-energised by Johnson.
Yet, after telling jubilant activists “to get breakfast done”, it will soon dawn on Johnson that he cannot govern by slogan or playing the fool.
He has to be a man of his word – a task that could prove problematical for a leader who has such an uneasy relationship with trust and the truth – or this blue collar support will dissipate.
After all, it is clear that Johnson blew apart Labour’s so-called ‘red wall’ in the Midlands and North because people were exasperated by the reluctance of Jeremy Corbyn’s party, and others, to accept and implement the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum result.
But the more pertinent challenge, if Johnson is to maintain the loyalty of his new-found supporters for the longer term, and which should be his primary purpose, is to decide what he wants to do once Brexit ‘is done’.
In this respect, there’s even more reason – and justification – for the PM turbo-charging the Northern Powerhouse agenda and making sure that this is central to his new domestic agenda.
After agreeing last summer, in the aftermath of the Power Up The North campaign launched by The Yorkshire Post and more than 30 other newspapers, that there was a case for having a Cabinet-level Northern Powerhouse Minister, he was accepting that there was both a challenge and opportunity here – the legacy of successive governments paying ‘lip service’ to the North.
And by getting things ‘done’ for the North that voters can see and judge for themselves, like infrastructure investment, Boris Johnson will be demonstrating to the whole country that there will be far more to his premiership than ‘getting Brexit done’ – or whatever this election-winning soundbite turns out to mean.
I AGREED with much of the analysis by Gus O’Donnell, the former Cabinet Secretary, who believed that globalisation and technology were to blame for regional inequalities.
London-born Lord O’Donnell then advised the Prime Minister: “We have the Northern Powerhouse but let’s spread it.”
Fair enough – but, to paraphrase Boris Johnson, let’s get the Northern Powerhouse done first.
WATCH out for the constitutional clash which now looms over Scottish independence.
Boris Johnson claims his thumping majority gives him a mandate. Yet here’s the irony: in a reverse of the 2016 referendum result, 48 per cent of people appeared to vote for pro-Brexit parties while 52 per cent backed parties who were committed, to varying degrees, to a People’s Vote of sorts.
How does he square this with the result north of the border where sweeping gains for the Scottish Nationalists have already led to calls for a second referendum?
ELECTION campaigns normally see the emergence of rising stars. Names to watch this time are Richmond’s Rishi Sunak and Newark MP Robert Jenrick who were entrusted with some of the TV debates while Brandon Lewis proved to be a safe pair of hands when it came media appearances.
I note Matt Hancock kept a low-profile – or, more likely, was ordered to take a vow of silence – when the NHS took centre-stage this week. And did anyone see – or hear – the Defence Secretary who was so below the radar that I have forgotten their name? On the Labour side, all I can say is that Richard Burgon, the Leeds East MP and Shadow Justice Secretary, achieved the impossible – he made Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell sound moderate by comparison.
THE Tories will maintain that the election result vindicated their decision to keep the Prime Minister (just like his dog Dilyn) on a tight leash – and avoid potentially incendiary interview with, among others, Andrew Neil, Jeremy Vine and Piers Morgan.
Yet they need to realise that, while the election is over, media interviews will be even more important, with both the Labour and Lib Dems in turmoil in the coming months, to ensure promises are upheld and decisions scrutinised.
I WONDER if the reason Holly Lynch bucked the national trend when retaining Halifax for Labour is her reputation for working collaboratively – not least on the so-called Protect The Protectors legislation which means the possibility of tougher sentences for those who assault and abuse emergency workers.
It also spoke volumes that several Tory MPs welcomed her return because they, too, appreciated her efforts to work on a cross-party basis. A lesson for others?
FINALLY a newspaper columnist and journalist at heart has just won a general election by a near-landslide. I’ll leave you to decide if this is healthy for the country – or not...