Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

Shuttle Get Back to Where You Once Belonged

A year ago, I wrote suggesting that many of the current Conservative MPs would rue the day they ditched Boris. The blog was published in October 2022, and identified three key reasons why people had voted Conservative in the 2019 election:

(1) Boris's call to 'get Brexit done' – this reflected the national mood when 'leave' won the referendum in 2016. Many people felt betrayed by the powerful urban and London-centric elites, who had tried to stop Brexit through a series of 'stalling actions', such as the call for a 'second referendum'.

(2) Although it is fashionable now to knock Boris, prior to COVID and the artificial 'party-gate' affair, he was well-liked as a person – he was personable, and seemed 'human' – something that attracted voters. Boris was a breath of fresh air, offering strong, certain leadership, and a promise to end the seeming 'drift' or stagnation that characterised Theresa May's leadership.

(3) Jeremy Corbyn was disliked in equal measure, even amongst many Labour voters. As the potential PM, Corbyn was a disaster – putting off many who considered Labour their natural 'home', and as such his continued presence gave the Conservatives a distinct advantage.

The Conservatives have since suffered a series of self-inflicted wounds that might see them out of office for at least a decade. I shudder to think what will become of the country if Keir 'Flip-Flop' Starmer becomes PM, and Angela Rayner his Deputy. If you, like me, think that this 'woke' nonsense has gone too far… 'you ain't seen nothing yet!' What would the country be like under Labour – it is bad enough now under a supposedly Conservative Government! If Sunak is to have any real chance of retaining his position, he must now begin to implement real Conservative policies, and the starting point should be stopping illegal immigration, not the half-hearted litany of platitudes that were the recent 'King's Speech.' However, rather than Conservative policies, his latest move consists of two major personnel changes: the first was sacking Suella Braverman – one of the few MPs who appeared to not only understand the mood of the country, but also fought to implement promises made. An MP who listens to people, and tries to stop illegal immigration - she obviously had to go! The second of his 'inspirational' decisions was to appoint David Cameron as the new Foreign Secretary, which I find even more disturbing. So, he has sacked an excellent Minister, and brought in an ex-PM…the question is why?

Suella Braverman. An excellent MP and, from what I have seen an equally good Minister. That she apparently sent a letter without having previously cleared the contents with No. 10 is a laughable excuse for her dismissal – it smacks of the desperation that was employed to get rid of Boris! He was knifed in the back by the grey suits over 'Partygate', and it appears that Braverman was brought down (ostensibly) over 'Hamasgate' – a similarly trite reason for dismissing someone. There are many questions associated with her departure: to begin with, why did Sunak say that she 'had his confidence' only days before throwing her under the bus? Surely not a very 'moral' act? Thinking more about this, I am tempted to ask whether the PM simply sacrificed her in order to appear tough, and in control of his party? 'Stop tittering on the back row!' To my mind, she now has a choice of three options: (1) she remains on the back benches, becoming a back-seat driver, sniping at Sunak for the remainder of this Parliament; (2) She resigns the Conservative whip, and joins the Reform Party; (3) She forces a split in the Conservatives, and seeks leadership of a real Conservative Party. I suspect that as someone of honour, the third option is beyond the pale, as it would split the Conservative vote and banish them to the political wilderness for at least a generation. Any damage she could inflict on Sunak from the back benches would be equally detrimental, as it would highlight the extent of division in the Party, and nothing is worse than a split party in the lead-up to a General Election. This leaves joining the Reform Party – something that she could do with a clear conscience, and would be likely to retain her seat. It will be interesting to see which way she moves over the forthcoming months, but I wish her well, and bemoan the fact that we do not have more politicians like her.

David Cameron. What worries me about the appointment of Cameron is his stance on Brexit: as everyone must surely remember, he was a 'remainer', and once he lost the referendum vote, he at least had the good grace to resign. However, as Margaret Thatcher said in her address to the Conservative Party Conference on 14 October, 1988: "We haven't worked all these years to free Britain from the paralysis of Socialism only to see it creep in through the back door of central control and bureaucracy from Brussels." With apologies to MT, I would like to say that in terms of Brexit, 'we haven't worked all these years to free Britain from the paralysis of Brussels, only to see the EU creep in through the back door…' In this respect, I view Cameron as the back door. Putting a remainer in charge of foreign policy is a dangerous move, especially when Blair, Mandelson, Hesseltine are all biding their time, waiting in the wings for a 'rejoin' agenda. Now they will be pushing against an open door in their bid for a re-set of our relationship with the EU. As far as I am aware, having officially left the EU we no longer have a Brexit Secretary, the assumption being that our relationships with Brussels will be handled by the Foreign Secretary – in this case, Mr. 'Back Door.'

Sunak must be getting desperate, as based on current opinion poll data, 54% think that Brexit was wrong, and 56% think that Brexit has made the economy worse (Devlin, 2023). As an aside, it would be interesting to see the actual questions used in these surveys, and the context in which the questions were asked – there has been a long-fought 'guerrilla war' against Brexit, led by the 'remoaners' since the 2016 vote, and these people have done all they can to damage the UK economy: add to this the debilitating consequences of Covid 19, and the reasons why Brexit has not achieved its potential become obvious. What Sunak needs, therefore, is a vote winner – and I suspect he has come round to the idea that re-entry of the EU (based on a second referendum) would be the ideal solution. He cannot, however, organise another referendum himself, but David Cameron could well be the man to do just this – and he has the opportunity to undertake talks with the EU on their attitude to the UK rejoining. Cameron's new job as Foreign Secretary gives him unfettered access to most Heads of State, and we never get transcripts of conversations that take place, so we are unlikely ever to know the exact topics of conversation.

What about Labour? They cannot take Britain back into the EU - although Starmer is desperately seeking a way of doing so – as he has committed himself to making a success of Brexit. Having said this, I suspect that he still hopes he can take us back in without having to take us back in! It would not surprise me if, in the New Year, Sunak were to promise another referendum on membership of the EU – after all, he has little left to lose, and judging by surveys the majority of the population would now vote 'remain' if given a second chance. If this were to happen, and 'rejoin' won, then Sunak could go to the country safe in the knowledge that the majority support his stance on rejoining. In riding on a 're-entry' ticket the Conservatives would take many votes from Labour. As the Liberal-Democrats have always supported membership of the EU, a 'rejoiner' Conservative government would probably be able to count on their support. We might even end up with a Conservative minority government supported officially by the Lib-Dems! Sound familiar? I bet it does to Davis Cameron.

So, we return to the beginning…the betrayal of Boris by the establishment. Had he not been forced from office, none of the above – with the exception of Covid – would have happened, and the country would not have been forced into the internally-damaging farce of two leadership contests. The first of these was between Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom: May won because Leadsom was forced to withdraw over an ill-judged remark she made during the contest about May not having children – silly perhaps, but scarcely a remark that required a resignation. Again, as Leadsom was a 'leaver' and May a 'remainer', there exists the nasty suspicion that it was Leadsom's stance on Brexit that alienated the Establishment, and her slight error was pounced on. May's Premiership took around nine months to officially inform the EU that we were leaving – once again the suspicion is that the process was dragged out in the hope that the country would 'come to its senses' before it was too late. May then made a major miscalculation when she went to the country and managed to lose the majority that she had inherited from Cameron. The next time the Establishment intervened was when May fell – or was she pushed, as she had 'gone native' was beginning to think that she ran the country. The Conservative MPs voted for Sunak to replace her – he was considered a safe pair of hands, and someone who would do as he were told. However, the MPs did not understand the mood of the country, and the Conservative Party membership voted for Liz Truss, another 'leaver', who appeared dynamic and judging by her track record as International Trade Secretary, someone who could get things done. This would have severely undermined the 'rejoin' agenda, so she had to go, and eventually Sunak was 'voted' in. All this played right into the hands of Labour, which (with little difficulty) managed to portray the Conservatives as disorganised, disjointed, dysfunctional, and disinterested in the country. By contrast, Boris might be accused of being shambolic, and somewhat disorganized at times, but he was never disinterested, and knew how to relate to people.

So, Honourable Members, consider carefully over the coming year what you have done…you have decided in haste to knife in the back the most successful Conservative PM since Margaret Thatcher, and you now have an inordinate amount of leisure time in which to repent your decision. "Will these hands ne'er be clean?" is a question you should ask yourselves as the next election draws close: hair shirts will be available outside the House from mid-October 2024, and free French, German, Spanish, and Italian classes will be held regularly each evening – with attendance obligatory!


Devlin, Kate (2023) "Brexit poll: Two-thirds of Britons now support future referendum on rejoining the EU." Independent (1 January); politics/brexit-poll-referendum-rejoin-eu 

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