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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Former Tory Party Chair Says Boris Johnson Is Taking Conservatives For Granted


3 min read

Lord Baker, a former cabinet minister and Conservative Party Chairman, has accused the Prime Minister of neglecting the needs of Conservative voters, and that rural Tories could turn against him in the next general election.

Writing in The House, Lord Baker said Conservatives are still divided over Brexit, and that Johnson has sowed the seeds of division rather than trying to unite the party.

Johnson has faced fresh questions over his leadership this weekend following a double by-election defeat in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton, followed by the shock resignation of the most recent party chair Oliver Dowden

Baker was party chairman in the final year of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, and held the roles of Home Secretary and Education Secretary in the 1980s and 1990s. 

“Since his election victory in 2019, the Prime Minister has taken the Conservative Party for granted," the former minister, who is a life member of the Tory Reform Group, said. 

Boris Johnson should have appreciated that Conservative supporters needed healing, but the Prime Minister does not do healing – he does confrontation, which he does well.

“In previous times an honourable captain put the welfare of his ship before that of his own. How times have changed.”

As party chairman, Baker held the same role that Dowden resigned from last week after the Tory’s double by-election defeats. 

“The Conservative Party Chair has done the right thing by resigning,” Baker said. “He remains loyal to the party which now has two years to regain the trust of the British people.”

Baker believes traditional Conservatives have an “enormous respect” for the rule of law. 

As well as the Prime Minister being fined by police over ‘partygate’, legal controversies have arisen over the Rwanda deportation policy, the Northern Ireland Protocol and Johnson’s unlawful attempt to prorogue Parliament in 2019. Baker warns that allowing Johnson to continue as PM will alienate the party’s key voter base and transform the political landscape.

Following a string of unpopular agricultural policies, Baker says rural voters in particular are starting to show their discontentment with the Tories.

He said: “You have only to listen to Farming Today to hear their anguish, anxiety, and anger.

“The whole farming community is affected. They did not like Michael Gove’s agricultural policy to turn the countryside into a chocolate-box.”

In addition to his criticisms of Johnson, Baker also lays blame on fellow senior Conservatives. 

“Other ministers have thoughtlessly lost Conservative voters: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s direction to civil servants to go back into the office must have lost us thousands of commuter votes in London,” he said. 

Baker questions whether Tory MPs will continue as “onlookers”, as Johnson says he is “actively thinking” about serving as Prime Minister for a third term. 

“The Johnson brand has gone flat,” the former chairman said. “His continued presence as Prime Minister risks sinking the Tories.”

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