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 drew applause.

Rishi Sunak, one of the party’s two front-runners, has been among those hastening Boris Johnson’s downfall. By submitting 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.” Ken Clarke, 69, regrets, sipping 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’m short, aren’t I? »), confirms that: “When I listened to Boris Johnson, he had me spellbound. He was, at least, not boring. »

Liz Truss is another candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party. And favorite to win, make no mistake about it. 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. Journalist Tom Newton, who hosts the evening, responds to Dunn’s question with reassurance.

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A gaping hole that is hard to fill

Boris Johnson may be loathed by some Britons, angering his European allies and resenting his own MPs, but his political charisma leaves a void that Tory 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.

The victory is part of the fall of the “red wall”, which saw 40 constituencies in the north of England traditionally vote Labor and go to the Conservatives in 2019. The north of the country swung to the right. After Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) he succeeded Boris Johnson in securing the strongest majority for the Conservative Party in the House of Commons. He had three main assets to present in these regions: his explosive personality, Brexit (Darlington voted 56% “for”) and a promise. “Rebalance the Country”, The disparities between North and South should be reduced.

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