James Forsyth

Can Boris Johnson recover from the Tory campaign crisis?

Can Boris Johnson recover from the Tory campaign crisis?
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After a torrid 36 hours for the Tory party which has seen one Cabinet Minister resign and another have to apologise, Boris Johnson spoke from the steps of Downing Street before heading out on to the campaign trail.

He argued that he didn’t want this election but it had to happen because Parliament was frustrating Brexit. He said that if there wasn’t an election, the UK wouldn’t even leave on the 31 January. This was designed to explain why Johnson has gone for an election, something that Theresa May never managed to adequately explain in 2017.

Boris Johnson then launched into his usual stump speech. He criticised Labour for not understanding that you need a dynamic market economy to provide the revenue to fund public services. He then attacked Labour on immigration, claiming the party wanted ‘unlimited immigration’ in contrast to the points-based system he’s backing.

This is a new attack from the Tories and one that will be hotly disputed by Labour. Johnson then had a pop at Labour for wanting to abolish Ofsted, a policy that Tory research shows goes down very badly with parents.

Finally, Johnson moved on to the central Tory message: do you want to get Brexit done or have next year dominated by – what he called – ‘the horror show’ of two referendums, one on Brexit and one on Scottish independence?  

The Tories have had a bad start to this campaign: no party wants a Cabinet Minister resigning on the day of their election launch. Yet the choice they want to put to the voters—‘get Brexit done with Boris or two referendums with Corbyn’ – is a potent one.

If they can keep the election focused on this question, then they will come back with a majority despite this poor start.