The decision to appoint Lee Anderson as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party points to one of the (many, many) challenges ahead for the party as it prepares for the next election.
In 2019, Boris Johnson managed to bring together a broad but particularly cohesive coalition of voters using a combination of promises to end and get Brexit done, a vague vision of pro-spending conservatism and his extraordinary ability to engage people. A very different politics to project what they want on his blank and cordial canvas.
Sage Sunak, armed with Treasury hawkish instincts and disputes over trade controls in Northern Ireland, is not really equipped to repeat that feat. Yet retaining the red wall will be essential if he is to be re-elected, especially given the dire population trends in the blue wall which the government, abandoning planning reform, seems determined to do nothing about.
Is it a good move? We’ll find out in 2024, one has to assume. There is a world where the new position gives some rein to the Member for Ashfield, and CCHQ is very good at putting him in front of voters as he speaks. There’s also one where his manipulative instincts are cheerfully unchecked and the prime minister finds himself part-owner of all sorts of sensational positions.
But there is also a broader question raised by Anderson and the media frenzy that follows him. And that is: how much the political class does really Want, as much as is demanded, a parliament that represents the nation as a whole?
Many initiatives over the past few decades have found this as their justification. Within our own team alone there are projects like Women2Win and the controversial A List in 2010. These have concrete, tangible results that have widened the range of people who now sit on the Conservative benches.
Labour, generally, has gone further, where under Robin Cook they have completely bent the traditional operation out of the Commons in the name of making it family friendly.
It also has concrete, tangible results. The sight of MPs giving two-minute speeches on certain in-demand bills, while others don’t speak at all, is not a good one, but it goes to show how much it prolongs the purpose of a more representative Parliament. justification
Anderson is not the sort of MP the architects of these programs had in mind, to put it mildly. But it’s hard to argue that he’s not speaking for an underrepresented group.
Take the current debate surrounding his vocal support for the death penalty. That’s what you’re thinking about in terms of location wildly Underrepresentation in public life. According to YouGov, around 40 percent of the public are generally supportive; Among Conservative voters, this number rises to 58 percent When specific crimes are highlighted (multiple murders, infanticide, terrorist murders) general support is above 50 percent.
Yet judging by the media coverage, Anderson’s public support is enough to turn him into a circus act. Even Preeti Patel, not known for her conciliatory approach to liberal principles of law and order, eventually chose to deny being an “active supporter” of the death penalty.
Are there other MPs who personally support it in certain circumstances – and could perhaps make a more eloquent case for it? sure But they don’t. Anderson did.
Delivery mode is its own point, too. Although he says a lot of controversial things, some of the points Anderson makes must be accepted in part because of how he communicates them.
His argument about people struggling to budget, for example, echoes APPG’s work on financial education for young people, even if the latter certainly don’t welcome the connection; Teaching people to cook healthy meals in schools can be a decent constituency in similarly respectable public health circles if others advocate differently.
None of which is to say that people shouldn’t object to what Anderson says. It’s politics, and finding things to dislike about his politics is both perfectly accurate and not particularly difficult.
But in terms of trade-offs, if we move away from polished, professional politicians who provide the same careful, controlled answers to interviewers — which, again, annoys many people — we have to pay for what we say. Strongly unprofessional communication.
And if we create more avenues for non-professionals to enter politics, the result will be a less liberal Parliament than we have, because the British are not particularly liberal people.
To highlight my all-time favorite polling again, in 2011 YouGov examined public views on how to respond to riots and found more than two-thirds in favor of almost every measure they suggested: water cannons, mounted police, curfews, tear gas, Tasers, plastic. Bullets and army deployment.
The last, “firearms/live ammunition” (!), was supported by only 33 percent of this country’s hairy Yeomanry. (Are they the same people who apparently want a 10pm curfew forever? Who knows!)
In the end, one suspects that most politicians, journalists, think-tankers and so on are much happier with that. The rule of zero signs of modern democratic life which they can acknowledge; So there will be a sort of distribution gap in right-wing politics between those on the edge of the Overton Window and those who don’t.
As long as it lasts, Anderson will continue to be a certain type of Tory (and indeed, Labour) ID – and our panel’s backbencher of the year.