It is hard to ignore that Essex emphatically voted to Leave the European Union. Therefore, at least the 622,911 of the almost 1 million people from Essex who voted in the 2016 Brexit Referendum will rejoice about the recent news that Boris Johnson is our Prime Minister.
However, Johnson has not only directly impacted the people of Essex with his hardline stance on Brexit, he has also appointed two Essex Members of Parliament to his Cabinet. Priti Patel of Witham, who was one of the Cabinet members, who alongside John Whittingdale, came about to back the Vote Leave campaign, has been rewarded as Home Secretary. The self-proclaimed Thatcherite has represented Witham since 2010, and she represents just one of four members of the most diverse Offices of State in our history. She is the daughter of Indian-Ugandan refugees who fled the tyranny of Idi Amin and has had a connection to Essex since taking her postgraduate degree at the Colchester campus of the University of Essex.
While slightly further afield, Braintree’s James Cleverly has become Chairman of the Conservative Party. He has worked closely with Boris Johnson since his days representing Bexley and Bromley in City Hall. Possibly their winning habits in 2008 and 2012, in left-leaning London could be emulated across the United Kingdom and see a monumental shift in geopolitical voting patterns.
Nonetheless, it is Boris Johnson’s chance with the British electorate that will be the most successful. Essex has historically been a Conservative heartland, and since the days of Margaret Thatcher and the Right-To-Buy Scheme, some of the atypical seats have swayed to the blues. In more recent times the Tories in our county has faced a more significant threat.
Before the 2016 referendum, the Eurosceptic threat that had swarmed across Britain had come from UKIP. On a national level of the EU Elections of 2014 saw a political party, excluding the Tories or Labour, win a national election for the first time since 1906. Despite, winning in Clacton through defector Douglas Carswell and finishing runners up in 9 constituencies in the 2015 general election, they rarely pushed the Conservatives close. In Maldon, they may have finished second, yet they could only scrape 15% of the vote.
The threat today is entirely different. Nigel Farage has a far more professional party in the Brexit Party. 2019 has subsequently proved disastrous for the Tories. Every single Essex constituency voted for the Brexit Party in the EU Elections, and Maldon is estimated to have voted by a margin of 47.4%. Just three weeks before 11 Maldon Tories were defeated, but they managed to salvage control of the council. Even the moderate, commuter-belt, safe-seat of Chelmsford proved a disaster for Theresa May. In May they lost over thirty councillors and therefore control to the Liberal Democrats before the Brexit Party romped to victory with over 40% of the vote.
However, this is a new dawn. Theresa May out, Boris Johnson in. The country now has its first-ever Brexiteer Prime Minister. If anything can restore confidence among the 17.4 million, then this is it. To slay the threat from Farage, Boris must remain committed to his ‘do or die’ attitude on Brexit. Alternatively, he can prevent any split of the pro-Brexit vote, which has occurred in the Peterborough by-election allowing Labour to win, and as it will do in Brecon next week, for a Liberal Democrat gain, through an electoral pact. A pact will be enough to protect the likes of Iain Duncan Smith in the London seat of Chingford and Woodford Green.
Its a clear choice for Boris Johnson and the 312 remaining Tory Party MPs, deliver Brexit or consign themselves to the rubbish bin of British politics. If the Conservatives fail to deliver Brexit, then not only will they be, as Dominic Raab describes ‘toast’ but they will be replaced on the right by the Brexit Party. This monumental change in British politics would be emulated across Essex as many of the EU Elections may transpire in a Westminster election. This would be one of the greatest political seachanges in our county since the shift to the left after the Second World War which even saw Chelmsford and Maldon vote Common Wealth and Labour, or in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher’s creation of the ‘Essex Man’ won over the seats of Harlow, Thurrock and Basildon. However, the Conservatives are completely aware of this and therefore the Tories members decision to elect Boris Johnson as their Leader makes this shift far less likely. He is adamant that Brexit will be delivered and given his role in the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 Brexiteers do seem quite approving of the former Mayor of London.
However, it is not just that Boris Johnson has become the Prime Minister that will fill Leavers with joy. The team around him are strong and predominantly pro-Brexit. Not only is his Cabinet reshuffle popular among Brexiteers but some of his staff appointments are reminiscent of 2016. The controversial Dominic Cummings, who was the brains behind the Vote Leave campaign, will be assisting Mr Johnson. And The Times and The Guardian are speculating that the CEO of the Vote Leave campaign, Matthew Elliot, will be assisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid.
The day after Boris officially became Prime Minister began with the new Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg giving a rather witty version of the Business to the House. One of his best moments for Brexiteers was his rejection of Gareth Snell’s question on voting on an amendment for a Custom’s Union. Rees-Mogg replied ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’. The chorus of supportive guffaw from the benches behind him, at the expense of the Labour MP from Stoke, would be well received throughout middle England and leave voting Wales.
However, even Boris Johnson’s performance on at the dispatch box was professional, combative and forceful. There was plenty to admire in his speech, and it would be clear that he is the only man, capable of winning a general election who can deliver Brexit. His most memorable moment during his statement to the House came during a barnstorming seven minutes when he lectured Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell head-on. Johnson defended the record of the Conservatives who have given the United Kingdom record employment, wage growth, falling crime rates, housing and more significant investment. Johnson then decided to launch a tirade against the damaging Marxist policies of John McDonnell, ‘who was sacked by Ken Livingstone for being too left-wing’ because it would be Labour who would raise taxes on income, inheritance, pension and even gardens. He finally went about eviscerating Corbyn as being ‘reprogrammed’ to go against his long-standing Euroscepticism, to be a born-again Remainer. Before concluding with the proclamation that it is the Conservative Party who are the ‘party of the people, the party of the many and they are the party of the few, we will take this country forward; they will take it backwards.’
Brexiteer, Boris-backer, MP for Maldon, John Whittingdale told the Daily Telegraph that the EU now must realise that the United Kingdom is ‘deadly serious’ about leaving the European Union, on the 31st of October, with or without a deal. Such confidence off of the back of Boris Johnson’s performance is not only confined to the Brexit issue. Even the Chelmsford MP, Vicky Ford, who backed Jeremy Hunt, must be grateful to Boris Johnson for his pledge to employ 20,000 more police officers across the United Kingdom. With Priti Patel being in charge of most domestic issues, we must be confident that Essex will get its fair share.
It has been just two days since Boris Johnson officially became Prime Minister, but for many Britons, something feels different. Peter Bone, MP for the Northamptonshire seat of Wellingborough, but educated at Westcliff Grammar School for Boys, explained how a man stopped him in the street to say that ‘for the first time, I think we’ve got a PM who is actually going to take us out of the EU.’ It is this sort of buoyant confidence that many people have been crying out for. Some may describe it as peddling optimism, but for many, this is what we need. With 98-days to go until Brexit is promised to be delivered the voices of Essex are acknowledged. Boris Johnson needs to look no further than Essex for inspiration to get Brexit over the line. By delivering Brexit Boris Johnson could be remembered with great fondness by the people of Essex, just as Margaret Thatcher did. Nonetheless, failing to do so would mean that the Tories have darker days to come.