DANIEL JOHNSON : Rise of the Left, and blunders Down Under that Boris Johnson must learn from
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Back in December 2020, Brexit talks were stalling and an ‘Australia-style’ no-deal between Britain and the EU loomed. That was when Boris Johnson was overheard whistling the Aussie ballad Waltzing Matilda in the corridors of No 10.

In the event, of course, a deal was signed – and the Prime Minister focused his attentions elsewhere on the international stage.

But now he urgently needs to look again Down Under, where a political earthquake has just taken place.

His rough counterpart, Scott Morrison – leader of the centre-Right Liberal-National government – has been turfed out of office by a rag-tag alliance of woke Lefties, Green eco-warriors and latte-sipping independents, ending a ten-year hegemony.

And the Australian situation is far from unique. It is simply the latest example of a tide that has swept centre-Left parties into power in Germany, Spain and Canada.

With his big-spending, big-government policies, Boris has tried to please the Red Wall voters who lent him their support at the last election. But ‘levelling up’ doesn’t mean chucking limitless sums of taxpayers’ money at every problem

This, I’m afraid, is the fate that awaits Boris and the Tories if they fail to get a grip on the mounting crises besetting this country – and tackle the Opposition.

The parallels between the Australian Liberals and the British Conservatives are not perfect, but they are striking.

Morrison, like Boris, was relentlessly targeted by a hostile and personal media campaign.

Both his own Liberals and Boris’s Tories have been damaged in the short term by the rising cost of living, and in the longer term by the erosion of traditional support in their suburban and rural heartlands.

Greens and independents lured metropolitan voters away from the Liberals in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In the Aussie equivalent of ‘Blue Wall’ seats, the centre-Right haemorrhaged support, while in the ‘Red Wall’ areas they lost ground to populists.

The Australian Leftists, too, are instructive in a British context.

At the next election, it seems improbable that Starmer could overturn the Tories’ 80-seat majority single-handedly. More realistic is that the Conservatives face a sinister coalition of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green candidates striking grubby deals to turf them out in individual seats

At the next election, it seems improbable that Starmer could overturn the Tories’ 80-seat majority single-handedly. More realistic is that the Conservatives face a sinister coalition of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green candidates striking grubby deals to turf them out in individual seats

Australia’s new Labor PM, Anthony ‘Albo’ Albanese, comes across as a reassuring, lawyerly moderate – a bit like our own Sir Keir Starmer, who like him is 59.

And like Starmer, Albanese struggled to beat his opponent on his own. When the Mail went to press last night, Albanese was still one seat short of an overall majority. 

At the next election, it seems improbable that Starmer could overturn the Tories’ 80-seat majority single-handedly. More realistic is that the Conservatives face a sinister coalition of Labour, Lib Dem, SNP and Green candidates striking grubby deals to turf them out in individual seats.

Next month, the Tories will be tested in by-elections in Tiverton and Honiton and Wakefield. Speculation has been mounting that Labour and the Lib Dems will agree a pact: for Labour to ‘step back’ in the Devon seat and the Lib Dems to give Labour a clear run in West Yorkshire. Such moves, repeated across the country in a general election, could prove fatal to the Tories.

Now, it’s important not to overstate the similarities between British and Australian politics. Having met three former Aussie prime ministers – John Howard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – I can safely say that Scott Morrison is less charismatic than any of them.

He and Boris are friends and allies, but very different. Unlike the man David Cameron once called a ‘greased piglet’, Morrison is bad at wriggling out of scrapes.

Australia’s new Labor PM, Anthony ‘Albo’ Albanese, comes across as a reassuring, lawyerly moderate – a bit like our own Sir Keir Starmer, who like him is 59

Australia’s new Labor PM, Anthony ‘Albo’ Albanese, comes across as a reassuring, lawyerly moderate – a bit like our own Sir Keir Starmer, who like him is 59

Known as ‘the bulldozer’, Morrison also has a tin ear for public opinion, unlike Boris who is usually quick to read the room. On climate change, Morrison has defended Australia’s mining industry – while here the Tories jostle to out-green even their Left-wing opponents.

But Boris does need to learn some crucial lessons from the Australian debacle. He urgently needs a principled, coherent plan to tackle the cost of living.

Inflation is running at 9 per cent here and our economy is heading for a recession. Instead of putting up national insurance and dragging millions into higher tax brackets, Chancellor Rishi Sunak should be slashing taxes.

With his big-spending, big-government policies, Boris has tried to please the Red Wall voters who lent him their support at the last election. 

But ‘levelling up’ doesn’t mean chucking limitless sums of taxpayers’ money at every problem. Australia shows us that a Left-wing leader masquerading as a moderate can always outbid any Conservative in spending promises – something Boris should have learnt long ago.

The PM needs to rediscover his Thatcherite instincts. Unless he can get a grip on the economy and reassure the country that he knows where he is leading us, he will end up, like his mate Mr Morrison, taking a long walkabout in the political outback.

Daniel Johnson is the editor of TheArticle.com

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