Tories are delusional if they think the Red Wall will wait to ‘level up’ when they can’t put the heating on

Rishi Sunak and others speak endlessly of ‘the future’, but they fail to realise that the future is a privilege to ponder

Jordan Tyldesley
Thursday 07 October 2021 09:50
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Rishi Sunak announces creation of 2,000 new AI scholarships for disadvantaged youth

How to describe the Conservative Party conference? It feels like a four-day-long hangover. The Brexit drug induced high has passed and the party is now in the depressing grip of an inevitable comedown. Its sequel “Build Back Better” has little of its predecessor’s catchiness and is distinctly unexciting. Of course it’s an obvious nod to Attlee’s ambition after the Second World War but this post-Covid recovery plan is a deeply depressing vision offering little more than empty rhetoric. This appears to be a party that is tired, confused, directionless and lacking purpose.

But it is also a party that has become complacent and self-indulgent due to an absence of credible opposition. This may be Labour’s best - albeit unintentional - strategy yet. The sheer lack of threat coming from their corner has lured the Conservatives into a false sense of security in which they believe they can act with total impunity. The internal turmoil and disunity within the Labour Party has so far managed to grab the nation’s attention - watching them eat each other alive has become a somewhat macabre spectacle - yet when the spotlight is solely focused on the government, we see a party that has grown too many individual egos. But more important still, it has a deep, misplaced misunderstanding of its new northern Tory baby: the Red Wall.

Think of it like this. The Tory Party is like a man who has found himself - quite unexpectedly - in the midst of an affair with another woman. He has no intention of leaving his wife, but similarly feels incredibly grateful to have acquired a new lover. He is working tirelessly to keep both happy (neither will be) and at night he sits and wonders; is this even worth it? A solid and substantial commitment cannot be offered to his northern mistress so instead he offers a long-term promise; “levelling up”. She doesn’t know what it means - he’s not so sure either - but it may just offer her a glimmer of hope that one day this may turn into something serious. The question is: will his northern lover have the patience to wait and see it come to fruition? If they’re both being honest, they don’t really have anything in common. They originally met in the Brexit nightclub under the influence of optimism and in the cold hard light of day this relationship makes little sense.

Over recent weeks - and certainly throughout these last four days - we see a Tory Party that now feels confident enough to expose and espouse its sheer indifference toward the neediest in society - many of whom live in the north. They are completely delusional in thinking that rising inflation teamed with a cut to the universal credit uplift will be met graciously by those on the breadline and this may come as a surprise to Rishi Sunak, but the promise of “2,000 AI apprenticeships” to those from a disadvantaged background won’t be all too comforting. He and others speak endlessly of “the future” but they fail to realise that the future is a privilege to ponder - a great many people live for the here and now and wish to do it on a full stomach with the heating on.

They may as well say, “You can have this magic ‘levelling up’ golden ticket to prosperity, but first, we must push you into the deep-end of this pool even though you may struggle to swim.” When will the Conservative Party stop making these humiliating hoops for us to jump through? We have endured austerity, watched our services crumble and suffered an unequal impact from Covid due to our deprivation but now we are essentially being told that we must pay for Sunak’s exorbitant cheques in the name of “fiscal responsibility”. We’re constantly reminded at conference that these are “difficult decisions” but they aren’t really - they’re calculated choices.

We are told that the government intends to bring thousands of new high paying jobs to the region - but what about those who don’t have the required skill set? They talk of brighter high streets - but we all know that the majority of its decimation is due to online retail. Much is said of affordable housing but little - if any attention - is placed on social housing. We know that town halls across Greater Manchester are facing debts running to tens of millions of pounds, so how are local councillors expected to rejuvenate our lives against this backdrop? Apparently, the PM is having to reassure southern MPs that he isn’t favouring the north but they really needn’t worry - the task is positively Herculean.

It is a crying shame that the Labour Party is yet to find its feet and portray a likeable and relatable image because the Conservative Party is in a desperately weak state. Behind a sea of identical men in blue suits walking intentionally and importantly around conference, there lies a deep anxiety that these promises cannot be delivered and the Red Wall will soon fall.

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