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U.K. Conservatives Plummeting in Support

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Here is what’s going on: Later this year, the United Kingdom will have elections, and the ruling Conservative Party, also known as the Tories, is expected to have its worst election outcome in its 190-year history. Right now, the left-leaning Labour Party is leading by nearly 20 percent.

How things have changed: In 2019, the Tories scored a big win by embracing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s populist agenda, which focused on completing Brexit and increasing spending.

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Promises made: Johnson pledged to improve northern England, an area hit by post-industrial decline similar to the American Rust Belt, by boosting infrastructure and expanding high-speed rail. Despite traditionally supporting Labour, this region swung heavily towards the Tories in 2019, giving them a strong majority.

Changes at the top: Johnson stepped down in 2022 amid a scandal during the COVID era, which hurt his reputation and divided the Conservative Party.

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  • The new leaders: Liz Truss took over but reversed course, trying to lower taxes for the wealthy. She was soon replaced by the current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who went back on the promise to expand high-speed rail and even removed a right-wing member from his team.

The North’s response: The Tories plummeted in polls and never recovered. Northern voters felt let down by the shift from Johnson’s populism and, in return, started abandoning the Tories. A whopping 56 percent of northern voters who backed the Tories in 2019 feel the party hasn’t supported them.

Why is it important? The struggles of the Conservative Party underline the consequences of not sticking to campaign promises. With right-wing populist parties gaining ground worldwide, a shift towards left-wing politics could happen in just one election.

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