One of the things we learned definitely from the December general election was how united the right was compared with how divided the left had become. While the right was able to group around Boris and the Tories, those who wanted the Conservatives out of government were split several ways, most prominently between Lib Dems and Labour.
The right remains mostly united today. The CoVid crisis has thus far strengthened the Tories with a rally round the flag effect kicking in. Yet underneath the surface is an emerging schism that, if it gets worse, will start to cause the Tories problems. I’m not saying it will, incidentally; the problem I am about to describe could all go away on its own, or things could fall nicely for the Tories and solve the issue. I’m only saying it is there.
What the general election victory was about in December was uniting the Brexit vote while allowing the splits in the Remain vote to help the Tories out. This worked beautifully for the Conservatives, resulting in an 80-seat majority. Yet this saved up problems for the future, some of which are starting to show already. On one side, you have what one could be describe as traditional Tory voters. This is less about past voting patterns than currently held political opinions, incidentally. These people are four square behind Boris and the Conservatives and it would take a series of monumental revelations about the Tories mishandling this crisis for them to even begin to question their loyalty. This group is annoyed by the other end of the Brexit equation, which are those who are questioning the lockdown more and more and at least beginning to wonder aloud if the Tories have mishandled this crisis.
What may blow this apart is Brexit, of course. The trad Tories wouldn’t be fazed by a Brexit extension in the least and would excuse it to the hilt, citing the CoVid crisis. However, the other bunch, let’s call them Brexit Party flirters, would cry foul. It would push a lot of them into outright, vocal dislike of the Tories and bring their suspicions about how the crisis and lockdown has unfolded to the surface. While I think there are way fewer people in this latter category than in the trad Tory one, this could still kick off a civil war on the right.
The Conservatives are aware of this – thus why any extension is being ruled out. Yet if they get cold feet when they see the shock a no deal Brexit might introduce and panic, then this scenario comes into play. In the middle of a pandemic crisis, I wouldn’t want to be the prime minister that has to deal with any of the choices involved there.
Even without a Brexit extension being enacted, the schism on the right could still come alive. The divisions on the handling of the crisis could become more enflamed and start to get serious for the Tories – watch Nigel Farage for signs of this happening over the next six months. He will be on any resurgence of anti-Tory feeling within the bosoms of the Brexit faithful like a fly on the proverbial faeces. Again, even if you take Brexit completely out of the equation, on one side you have a group of well-off people whose like of the Conservative party outweighs any short term concern; people who are either part of the establishment or like the fact that we have an establishment in a very old school Tory fashion. On the other side, people who want to tear the establishment down. The Conservatives have juggled this paradox impressively for a bit. Doing so forever, particularly with Corbyn no longer the leader of the opposition, might be impossible.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s available here: