Look back on the party’s history. The leaders who put the nation’s interests first and governed from the center did so with distinction: Disraeli, Stanley Baldwin, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and, yes, Margaret Thatcher too.
When they went populist, it didn’t work. Who remembers the first Tory populist Andrew Bonar Law, who went full protectionist, upending 60 years of economic policy and threatening civil war over Ireland? By the time he became the shortest-serving 20th century prime minister, the Tories hadn’t won an election for 20 years, Ireland was independent and free trade remained.
Populism wasn’t worth it then, and it isn’t worth it now.
Broadly speaking, Tory leaders fall into two camps: The populists, noisily holding the fort — that is until the reins of power are handed over to a premier from the second camp, comprised of the big beasts who step up, seek unity and shunt our great nation forward, preserving the wider democratic order.
Currently, there’s little question that leadership, competence and stability have returned to Number 10 following the party’s dalliance with populism, but unity is still lacking. And without unity, the Tories won’t succeed. Unity evokes competence; disunity begets ill-discipline; and ill-discipline begets electoral defeat.
The prime minister’s Campaign Chief Isaac Levido presented this same message to Tory backbenchers just last week: The Boris Johnson/Liz Truss turmoil saw a full quarter of the voting population shift — not to Labour but to the “don’t know” camp.