Tory Centrists Strike Back: ‘One Nation’ Caucus Wants ‘The Liberal Boris’

PERTH, SCOTLAND - JULY 05: Conservative leadership candidate Boris Johnson addresses an audience of party members as he takes part in a Conservative Party leadership hustings event at Perth Concert Hall on July 5, 2019 in Perth, Scotland. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the final two MPs left in …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The anti-Brexit ‘One Nation’ movement in the Tory Party aims to stop the Conservatives from becoming too right-wing by convincing Boris Johnson to “embrace his liberal instincts”.

The group had hitherto been defined by its Europhile stance. In its relaunch on Monday, anti-Breitbart MP Damian Green admitted that the Brexit question was settled. Mr Green wrote for ConservativeHome that One Nation Conservatives must redefine themselves as the movement seeking the “intellectual regeneration” of the party.

The caucus is comprised of just over 100 MPs, around a third of the parliamentary party.

Members speaking to the media have indicated that the One Nation Caucus will lobby for progressive and liberal causes, many of which are generally considered contrary to conservatism. They include spending high amounts of public money on foreign aid, attaining “carbon New Zero”, and raising taxes on so-called “unearned” income.

One Conservative backbencher speaking to leftist Guardian on Monday said that he felt the party was suffering an identity crisis because it no longer represented liberal-progressive globalist values. They said: “Many of us were asking ourselves: is this still our party? Have we ceased to be a Cameronite, liberal, one nation party? The battle is still going on — though it’s a bit more polite.

“There is a tussle going to define Boris. We are reconciled to Brexit because of the democratic mandate from the election. But there is still a fight to be had about what sort of party we are — over agriculture and trade, over the economy and coronavirus support. Is this an attempt to bring out the liberal, one nation Boris? Yes, it is.”

Another member of the group told The Telegraph that they had noticed that the Conservative Party — conservative, by definition, being ‘right-wing’ — had made a “move to the right — especially when it comes to culture war issues”.

“The One Nation Conservatives haven’t gone away, and we will do all we can to encourage the prime minister to embrace his liberal instincts,” they added.

The former de facto deputy prime minister under Theresa May, Damian Green was on the board of the anti-Brexit Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE) campaign before the 2016 EU referendum. While many of the MPs who dominated the centrist and anti-Brexit debate have since left parliament — including Amber Rudd, David Gauke, and Rory Stewart — the group’s 2020 members include those from the new intake of 2019.

This may appear surprising, given that only those on board with the prime minister on issues such as Brexit would be able to stand in constituencies, signalling that they, too, would be of the same political leanings in other matters including culture and public spending.

However, Johnson had never pretended to be a committed conservative. The prime minister is said to have always been on the “centre-left” of the party, described as being “not shy about spending public money” and having been extremely liberal on immigration, amnesty for illegal aliens, and even expanding the EU to include Turkey just a few years ago.

In fact, the prime minister may need little reminding of his “liberal instincts”. On Monday, he announced that he backed plans to put restrictions on the promotion of so-called unhealthy foods, a further step away from his earlier-stated libertarian politics and toward the liberals’ favoured Nanny Statism.

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