Following the Conservative Party’s landslide victory, Boris Johnson today (14/12/19) embarked on a tour of northern constituencies.
Promising to “repay your trust”, Johnson said that his government would “spread opportunity across the whole of the United Kingdom”.
Johnson paid tribute to voters in a number of traditionally Labour constituencies which had returned a Conservative MP. “I want to thank all the people, all the people of Sedgefield, of Bishop Auckland, of Stockton South, of Darlington (where my ancestors come from, as it turns out), North West Durham, Blyth Valley, and Redcar.”
Johnson spoke at length in Sedgefield, the seat formerly represented by Tony Blair which on Thursday elected its first Conservative MP for 84 years. When questioned about his views on Blair, the prime minister expressed a degree of praise for the former Labour leader, emphasising the different trajectory of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.
Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle, he said: “I think that Tony Blair got a lot of things wrong. But he got some things right. And one thing he got right was he understood – unlike the current Labour Party – that there is a balance in the economy. And to have fantastic public services you need a strong enterprise economy as well. Tony Blair was smart about that. I think the current Labour Party has totally lost sight of that.”
Johnson emphasised the significant electoral shift which brought his party victory. Electing a Conservative MP meant many were “breaking the voting habits of generations”. Echoing a phrase he had used in a victory address to Tory activists in London, he said: “I can imagine people’s pencils hovering over the ballot paper and wavering before coming down for us and the Conservatives”.
Emphasising a change of direction after Brexit and a higher-spending Conservative government, Johnson said: “The United Kingdom has embarked on a wonderful adventure. […] We’re going to recover our national self-confidence, our mojo, our self-belief, and we’re going to do things differently and better as a country.”
Back in London, hundreds of protesters took to the streets to demonstrate against the new Conservative government. Bearing placards with the words ‘Defy Tory Rule’ and ‘No to Boris Johnson’, they descended on Downing Street. Two were arrested following altercations with police, one for suspected assault and another for suspected affray.