inequality“Over the wall 
Hand in hand 
Over the wall 
Watch us fall” 

Our tale this week is of two walls, one red, and one blue.  

We start our tale with the red wall, which had gone unnoticed by many of us for years, it was the symbol of Labour party support, made up of generations that had comprised much of the manufacturing base of this country. Deindustrialisation under successive Tory governments led by Margaret Thatcher saw the areas sink into depression, with high structural unemployment. In turn this changed the demographics as young people moved away in search of work. 

Those that stayed became defined as the “left behind”. Many, including myself, misunderstood this term, mistaking it for economic reasons, when in fact, most were homeowners with decent equity, fully superannuated, and because of their lower cost-of-living were better-off than many in supposedly more prosperous regions. 

What had left them behind could be described as cultural issues; they are conservative people, distrusting of change; immigration and migrants, woman’s rights, same-sex marriage. They are also nationalists. 

These people came to prominence in 2016, when they played a pivotal role in the Brexit referendum that saw us turn inwards, rejecting Europe. Their importance was endorsed further in 2019 when they deserted Labour giving their traditional foe, the Tories, a sweeping majority. 

The ascent of the red wall has provided a populist momentum that has seen the country plumb new depths politically. The last 5-years have seen carnage, chaos, lies, misogyny, racism, a cost-of-living crisis, scandal after scandal, rising taxes, and growing inequality.  

carnage, chaos, lies, misogyny, racism, a cost-of-living crisis, scandal after scandal, rising taxes, and growing inequality’

The two promises that broke the red wall, the benefits of Brexit, and “levelling-up”. 

Brexit is proving a self-inflicted disaster. Last week, Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit Opportunities, admitted that enforcing post-Brexit checks, “would have been an act of self-harm”. He proudly told us that delaying the imposition of post-Brexit border checks on imports from the EU would save £1bn a year and help hard-pressed consumers by avoiding an increase in the cost of imported food.  

Even he must see that had we not embraced this folly there would be need to spend the £1bn. 

Farmers, one of the supposed beneficiaries of this madness now face onerous and costly checks when they ship their goods across the Channel, while French, Italian or Spanish farmers face no such issues going the other way. 

Ironically the minister for Brexit Opportunities declared that “free trade is hugely advantageous to consumers”, yet it was he and his cronies who took us out of the largest, most successful free trade bloc in the world – the European single market. 

“Levelling-up” was the promise that demolished the red wall, yet it took until February for Michael Gove, the minister in-question to deliver the requisite white paper. Since then, the term has fallen into disuse. 

It is too easy to blame Sunak and the Treasury, the PM is in-charge, it was his promise, force it through, find a new chancellor. The truth is that “levelling-up” isn’t a “real” Tory policy. The party is dominated by the right, “levelling-up” requires a level of economic interventionism that isn’t in their playbook. As an intent “levelling-up” is wonderful, but without money and political support they will never go beyond ideas. The level of detail required to execute these ideas is alien to the PM. 

Any support that has been forthcoming has missed the target, researchers at the University of West London found: 

  • 61% of England’s most deprived areas have not been allocated any money from the £4.8bn levelling-up fund. 

  • A scheme to replace targeted funding from the EU will leave the regions of England C.£80m a year worse off.  
  • 79-areas in England applied for funds to improve local bus services, only 34 are receiving support.  

With local elections imminent, Johnson recently told the Commons that “everywhere you look at a Labour administration, it is a bankrupt shambles”.  Another lie: 

  • the first of the small number of councils that have declared themselves broke was Tory-run Northamptonshire. 
  • After more than 10 years of savings, Tory-run Stoke-on-Trent is making £10m of cuts; Leeds £16m; Liverpool is trying to plug a gap of £24.5m. 

Despite being badly let down there is still the expectation that the Tory’s will maintain their support in the former red wall. I can understand their voters being unconcerned by “Partygate” and mis-leading parliament, but you would expect the cost-of-living crisis added to the non-appearance of “levelling-up” would see them return to the Labour fold. 

According to the Daily Mail, the response to today’s issues is: “Partygate? Disappointing but move on. Cost of living crisis? It’s real, but unavoidable. Illegal migrants to Rwanda? No objection, get on with it. Ukraine? Do all we can and open our doors. Can a woman have a penis? Don’t even go there…” 

Quotes from people interviewed included: 

  • Can we just stop going on and on about parties? I bet the other lot were at it too.’ 
  • He’s probably the best of a bad bunch 


  • He’s done wrong and paid his fine — but I like him. He’s funny.’ 

Somehow, I can’t help but think they deserve all their going to get! 

Now, we turn to the blue wall described by one as “moderate, educated people in commuter towns and relatively prosperous suburbs”. Their beliefs are liberal, “remainers”, progressive, embracing, and unafraid of change. They are patriotic rather than nationalistic. 

Their support is almost taken as granted. Labour leaders such as Jeremy Corbyn frighten them, and historically they believed, “the Conservatives are the party that could best manage the economy”.   

‘Keir Starmer doesn’t frighten them, he is one of them’

The political situation is Westminster is alienating these voters. Johnson’s prime concern is Tory MPs. If he can see off a vote of no confidence, avoiding a leadership election, he will live to fight another day. To placate them he must keep moving to the right, being moderate and appeasing the blue wall would be political suicide. 

What then happens to these moderate Tory voters? Keir Starmer doesn’t frighten them, he is one of them. The policies offered by the Liberal Democrats meet with their approval. They are savvy, understanding tactical voting, and that Tory party has deserted them. 

As a senior Conservative from a southern constituency said, “Johnson doesn’t offer my constituents anything. He just sucks up to his friends in the right-wing media.” David Gauke, the former MP and justice secretary Johnson purged from the Conservatives for refusing to support a hard Brexit, said “he could see his corner of Hertfordshire and large parts of southern England turning away from the Conservatives. Liberal graduate couples moving in to escape the punishing house costs of London were transforming the home counties.” 

Further north, in areas such Altrincham Graham Brady, the incumbent MP and chair of the 1922 Committee, fears the seat is at risk, his majority fell to 6,000 at the last election.  

These people don’t like the brutality and vulgarity, few supported Brexit, they voted Tory for the same reason their predecessors voted Tory: because they thought the Conservatives kept taxes low. Instead, this current Conservative government has raised taxes to their highest level since WW2. Brexit and failed economic policies require us to pay more for less. 

The middle classes have been immune to the reality of the past 12-years, when average disposable income have barely risen.  This is despite their belief that if they worked hard and showed talent and drive, Tory economic policy would ensure they were rewarded.  

They were bought-up to believe in home ownership, with the expectation that prices will just keep going up. However, recently mortgage rates have risen faster than ever before, visits to home-buying sites have crashed. Stamp duty crushes buyer’s aspirations, and savings are being exhausted by tax demands. Therefore, the housing market looks set for a correction, whilst this usually reverses itself, it will make the miserable mood even worse. 

The legacy of the last 12-years of Conservative rule, is a return to a time when parental wealth is decisive. The poorer the parents, the slimmer the chances of the young and middle aged buying a home become. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies said, the size of the family inheritance you receive will probably mean more than anything you can achieve by your own efforts.  

These core Conservatives voters, the respectable middle class, are the new “left behind”.  

‘the respectable middle class, are the new “left behind”’

Putting “partygate”, lies, and sleaze to one-side, what are the issues facing us? 

Law and order is a Tory hobbyhorse, however new figures show overall crime has increased by 18% in the past 2-years, while the proportion of those charged is a mere 5.8%.  

Another Tory long suit was their management of the economy. Whilst they aren’t to blame for the cost-of-living crisis their reaction it has been non-existent.  

How devoid of ideas and sympathy they are was highlighted in the PMs television interview yesterday. A pensioner, Elsie, gas, and electricity bills had soared from £17 to £85 a month. She was losing weight, having already cut down to just one meal a day, and shopped only in the late afternoons when price-reduced “yellow sticker” items came on sale. To keep warm Elsie leaves home and ride the buses all day using her pensioner’s freedom pass. 

Johnson had little else to offer Elsie, who already received a warm home discount and did not qualify for a council tax rebate, instead he boasted that he had introduced the freedom pass. 

Meanwhile away from la, la land 40% of British households will experience fuel poverty this autumn if nothing changes, according to the big energy companies, and food banks are preparing for increased levels of demand. 

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, knows he will have to do more. On a “Mumsnet” webchat last week he said that even though many are already struggling, it would be “silly” to do anything sooner before it’s clear how bad things might get. What is he waiting for? Deaths from hypothermia, starvation? 

Of course, for all the losers there is always a winner: BP announced that profits more than doubled to £5bn in the first three months of the year, their highest quarterly profit in more than a decade. 

This has only fuelled the fire for those calling for a windfall tax on these obscene profits. Johnson is resistant, claiming it will impact investment, whereas when the chief executive of BP, Bernard Looney, was asked which of its planned £18bn of UK investments it would drop if a windfall tax were imposed, he said: “There are none that we wouldn’t do.” 

Inflation and the cost-of-living crisis tops the list of voters’ worries, according to the pollster Ipsos Mori. The coming fear now is a potential rise in interest rates, which means mortgage payments going up. The crisis obviously hurts the poorest most, but it’s creeping up the income scale, reaching more of the middle earners who voted Tory in 2019. 

‘The crisis obviously hurts the poorest most, but it’s creeping up the income scale’

YouGov now finds Labour level pegging with the Tories on the question of who is most trusted to manage the economy, once a reliable predictor – along with perceptions of the party leader – of electoral outcomes. And while sleaze may have faded somewhat from voters’ memories by the next election, every economic forecast suggests that living standards will loom larger, especially if ministers keep responding in ways that suggest they don’t get it. 

The Tory’s have been in government for nearly 12-years, it may not be their failings that ultimately undo them, it will be the electorates belief that they have run out of ideas to deal with issues that matter.   

The blue wall may crumble with Labour and the LibDems as the beneficiaries, but unless they can work together it may not affect the overall result of an election. 

For the red wall, voters their supported Brexit and gave Johnson his sweeping majority, based largely on the belief that he might follow through on his boasts and re-energise their towns.  

I believe they are destined to be disappointed; the party is in the hands of right-wingers who have reverted to type demanding a small-state, and low-spending. Despite this is many will continue to be spellbound by Johnson, after all he makes them laugh. 

“You hear laughter 
Cracking through the walls 
It sends you spinning 
You have no choice” 

Sitting astride both walls is “humpty” Johnson, all I can say is that I hope “all the kings’ horses, and all the kings’ men can’t put humpty together again!”  
As the local election results trickle in, it appears that Boris did not get the ‘Partygate’ kicking many had predicted; as the Durham Constabulary appear set to investigate ‘Sir Beer’ it seems that Mr Johnson has dodged yet another bullet.

As people watch their living standards eroded, face increasing mortgage rates, government promises turning into vapour and up to 40% being driven into fuel poverty, it seems that those voting for more of the same would have been quite comfortable at one of Max Moseley’s parties.

In fact so cock-sure is Boris after strutting around with President Zelenskyy that he feels able to give M. Macron the cul froid treatment. So what was Philip thinking?:

‘A somewhat tongue in cheek look at the regional disparity prevalent in this country.

Red wall, blue wall, left behind are much used terms that are often misused.

The assumption was it was the red wall that was financially, or economically left behind when it is the blue wall that is suffering

The red wall has been left behind by progressive politics. Brexit, populist politicians trumpeting past glories, and regressive messages are their saviour.

I cannot see a Labour, or LibDem leader appealing to the red wall, they are too far “gone”. Should Johnson fall, and the Tory’s turn to a moderate leader I could see them turning to a Farage style leader. Perhaps he will come out of retirement for one last hurrah?

At the heart of all this is populism and a right-wing press continually sowing the seeds of discontent. Johnson for all his failings as a PM knows the playbook, and is quick to offer up policies such as “offshoring” immigrants, and picking fights with the EU that appeal to his electoral base.

There is no doubt that there are deep divisions in this country. It is hard to predict where it will end, or how. Perhaps nature has to take its course and we have to wait for this generation of bigoted populists to depart. As Niccolò Machiavelli said, “the ends justify the means.

Musically, we feature two favourites, starting with Echo and the Bunnymen “Over the Wall” from their debut album, a true classic. We finish with a song picked for “red wallers”, Siouxsie and “Spellbound”. After all, anyone who votes based on “he makes me laugh”, must be under a spell. Enjoy!



Philip Gilbert 2Philip Gilbert is a city-based corporate financier, and former investment banker.

Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s

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