The government must challenge the Remainers’ “relentless negativity” on the state of the post-Brexit economy if it is to avoid further by-election losses, a former Cabinet minister has said.
Liam Fox, who has had stints in Cabinet as International Trade Secretary and Defense Secretary, said the Tories needed to push the “real facts” about the economy to rise in the polls.
The Tories recently suffered bruising by-election defeats in Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire and Somerton and Frome in Somerset, two areas where a majority voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The result in Selby was seen as particularly significant, with Labor enjoying its biggest Conservative swing in a by-election since 1994.
Although not part of the red wall of traditionally Labour-voting constituencies that fell to the Conservatives in 2019, Selby is neighbor to those seats, which are again set to prove a crucial battleground in the next election.
Dr Fox said that to recover from defeats, the Tories needed to start telling a more positive story about the UK after Brexit.
He said: “As the EU referendum approached, the British people were subjected to a deluge of dire warnings about the economic consequences of voting to leave – the economy would go into recession, unemployment would rise, investment would collapse and British exports to Europe would face a bleak future.
“Voters, particularly in the red wall of the Labor heartland of northern England, have decided to ignore these scare tactics and prioritize Britain’s freedom to make its own laws and determine its own destiny.
“Since then, left-leaning Metropolitan remnants have heaped condescension on them, trying to imply that Brexit was a disaster and that they were foolish to ignore their largely London-based warnings.”
“Poison our speech”
Dr Fox said that in every area of the economy the warnings had not been confirmed. “There is legitimate criticism of the government in its failure to get the real facts across on the post-referendum economy, at a time when the relentless negativity of the remaining radicals continues to poison our political discourse,” he said.
“That must change if our position in the polls is to recover, and we must avoid a repeat of recent by-election losses.”
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the party’s ability to hang on to Uxbridge and South Ruislip due to the unpopularity of the Ulez expansion showed a way forward for the Tories.
He said the electorate must be offered a “clear conservative” choice. “The one that reduces the burdens of families and businesses. One who is open about the true cost of this Net Zero rush. One that recognizes the need to get there without an ideology that imposes huge burdens on taxpayers.
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