In the last four years, two Conservative prime ministers have stood on the threshold of 10 Downing Street and set out a ‘one-nation’ vision for Britain. The first was Theresa May, who, in July 2016, declared that her government would help those struggling to make ends meet rather than ‘the privileged few’. The second was Boris Johnson, who, after his resounding election victory last December, spelled out his determination to help the blue-collar voters – traditional Labour supporters – ‘from Woking to Workington’. In his words, they had ‘lent’ the Tories their vote for the first time.
Both prime ministers’ plans to shift the Conservatives to the political centre ground were soon dashed. May’s premiership was dominated and ultimately wrecked by the tortuous Brexit process, which left her struggling to point to any domestic policy achievements on leaving office. Johnson’s premiership has now been overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis, which leaves him managing a public health and economic emergency to the exclusion of everything else.
It is impossible to ignore that context when reading Nick Timothy’s Remaking One Nation. Timothy was one of the two faithful consiglieri on whom May relied in the first year of her premiership. His opening chapter is a brisk and readable account of those twelve months, which ended with May