Boris Johnson intends to mimic aspects of Tony Blair’s political project in the hope of winning over more voters in former Labour heartlands, Downing Street sources have revealed.
While the Conservatives’ 2019-intake MPs are more likely to model themselves on Margaret Thatcher than the former Labour prime minister, 不 10 insiders said Johnson had been studying Blair’s approach.
Comparing Johnson’s “levelling up” pledge to Blair’s programme, a source said: “We’re going to do the thing that Tony Blair failed to do for the people who voted for him. We’re going to energise the towns and regions that feel left behind: we’re going to reach out to those places and improve people’s life chances.”
They cited plans for investment in skills and further education, as well as Johnson’s cherished infrastructure projects. Echoing Blair’s promise to create an “opportunity society”, the source added: “This is an opportunity-spreading government.”
Despite the Tories having been in power for 11 年, Johnson’s team hope to emerge from the pandemic emulating the upbeat mood music that was the backdrop to Blair’s electoral successes – literally, in the case of the Things Can Only Get Better soundtrack to the 1997 campaign.
然而, there has been criticism from within his own party about what many MPs perceive as drift and indecision in Downing Street – and a lack of concrete policies.
Winning the Hartlepool byelection in May cemented hopes in government that after smashing the “red wall” in the 2019 全民选举, there may be more gains to be made in the north-east and other Labour-held areas in a future national vote.
Veterans of Labour’s years in power were sceptical, 然而. Lord Mandelson, the former Hartlepool MP, who worked closely with Blair, 说: “A vintage Blair project is one that is properly conceived, planned and executed, not a wheeze lasting as long as it takes for the prime minister to lose interest.”
Anand Menon, professor of politics at King’s College London, 说: “You can see how ‘levelling up’ might have been a phrase that Tony Blair could have used … [但] I think the fundamental difference is that Blair set out practical measures and could be judged on their achievement.”
As an example he pointed to Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” slogan, and measures such as antisocial behaviour orders and tougher punishment for persistent young offenders, as well as increased investment in children’s services such as Sure Start centres.
Dominic Cummings has ridiculed the “levelling up” slogan, saying it played badly with the public and was insisted on by Johnson, who was irked by reports suggesting he was the puppet of his powerful adviser.
That account was backed up by a former No 10 insider, who said the phrase had not gone down well in a string of focus groups. “In the north they said ‘same old Tories, we don’t believe it’, and in the south they said ‘they don’t care about us – it sounds like moving money out of our constituency into someone else’s.’”
David Cameron once liked to call himself the “heir to Blair” as he sought to detoxify his party on social issues. Johnson’s brand of Conservatism is arguably less liberal, recently landing him in controversy over his initial refusal to back the England football team’s decision to take the knee.
Like Blair, who won three general elections for Labour, 包括 1997 landslide, Johnson is a somewhat ambiguous figure in his own party, embraced for his electoral appeal rather than loved.
Johnson’s biographer, Andrew Gimson, told Politico’s Playbook on Friday that as Johnson celebrates two years in power this weekend, “he’ll be pretty pleased because he’s a bit like Tony Blair, oddly enough, with the wider public. He’s having an unnaturally prolonged honeymoon. He’s high in the polls and the Labour party have got terrible difficulties at the moment. I think Boris Johnson will think to himself: ‘This is just the start – if I play my cards right, then I can win three more elections.’”