The Conservative Party has been morphing into something else since June 2016, something very different to what they have ever previously been. Amongst other things, they used to know how to win elections. How are they doing on that front these days? Lost their majority at the 2017 general election; lost 1,300 councillors at the this year’s locals; came fifth, with less than 10% of the vote in a nationwide contest.
How the Tories used to win, and did so more successfully than any party in the history of western democracy, was by being pragmatic and reasonably level-headed. Yes, there were always headbangers in the party; they were kept in line enough not to destroy the party all that often. Now, the Conservatives have decided to pursue a strategy that not only isn’t working for them, but to adopt an even more insane version of it. They are knowingly driving toward a destination that will definitely electorally destroy them.
Boris Johnson is going to be the prime minister, unless something miraculous happens. Gove has been taken out; Hunt, Hancock and Javid stand no chance against Johnson in the final vote. They are about to elect a man who wrote in the Telegraph that May’s deal was like enslavement in Egypt – and then voted for it less than 48 hours later. I know I’ve brought that up many times before, but that is because it is still mind-blowing to me that any Tory MP can trust him after he did that.
It has become a trope in right of centre journalism that only people who don’t vote Tory like Rory Stewart. While there is a point here – trying to appeal to left-wing young people who will never vote Tory in a million years and only like Stewart because they find him the least objectionable candidate is not great politics – they’ve missed a bigger one. That is, a lot of the people who like Rory Stewart are precisely the swing voters who might well be persuaded to vote Tory and will in fact, decide a general election. Maybe they should think about choosing the leadership candidate the people they need to switch to voting Tory like instead of one this same group of voters passionately despise. They should also consider that Stewart is the only candidate who has any chance of actually making Brexit work, while the others are actively pursuing paths that will lead to no Brexit or Brexit being reversed within the decade. Yet he is derided amongst this set as a Remainer.
Whether we crash out of the European Union without a deal or not is now almost entirely down to the whims of Boris Johnson. Sorry to be the bringer of such a horrid image, but that’s where the nation is at present. He might decide to do absolutely anything – he’s the only one of the ten candidates who would ever just revoke Article 50 for example – but that’s just it, the country’s fate rests in his hands. It is becoming clearer what a no deal Brexit would look like: Suez squared. Nightmarish problems that are difficult to predict from here, all with the need to go cap in hand to the EU Commission sooner rather than later. Also, no deal Brexit wouldn’t destroy the Brexit Party but rather, make them much stronger. Farage would be telling everyone within a few days of it happening that no deal would have been grand if someone other than the Tories had actioned and prepared for it properly, someone whose name rhymes with garage in an American accent. Plenty of Leave voters would believe him.
The Tories will then be finished as an electoral force having lost a mass of Leavers on one side to the Brexit Party, and a lot of Remainers to the Lib Dems. Their reputation for astute management will be destroyed for a generation at least. Which is why I don’t think Boris will do it, even if he could get it through parliament. So what will happen instead? I guess we are about to find out.