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.
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?
Um, they haven’t properly won an election since 1992. In case you missed it, they didn’t actually win in 2010, and 2015 barely scraped over the line, hardly a success.
Whatever they have been doing since 1997 — I think the word is ‘modernising’ — it clearly hasn’t been working.
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
Mrs Thatcher has a lot of reputations, but ‘pragmatic and reasonably level-headed’ isn’t, I think, one of them, either then or now. The result? Three election victories. Actual victories, mind, not like Cameron’s rather dismal record of one outright loss which led him to have to go begging to the Liberal Democrats — the Liberal Democrats, for shame! — to prop him up, and one only just limping into government.
Uncle Vince Cable says
They’ve increased their vote share for the last five general elections on the trot.
They might’ve imploded in the last 6 months but I’d never dare underestimate them. A ruthless election-winning force. Can we really rule out a charismatic leader somehow swinging a GE majority even amidst the storm of no deal?
A schop says
Boris has nowhere to hide now
Brexit happened because of him he has bet the house on it
His base like trump expect nothing but total divorce from Europe
Deep down I can see from his face he is Bricking it but he broke it he owns it now full responsibility is yours
He is not stupid he knows no deal will destroy him and the tories
Andrew Steed says
So assuming Johnson wins, does one also assume Hammond will be replaced (or resign), who becomes Chancellor?
David Morrison says
Given her craven support for him on Radio 4 the other day I’d say it has to be Liz Truss.
By the way, Nicky, when you say this:
“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.”
you’re forgetting that you’re dealing with a personality cult for whom things like facts, reason, and evidence are completely irrelevant.
The truth is that the members of the Magic Unicorn Cult—I won’t call them the Tory Party anymore—have projected all their delusions and fantasies onto this nauseating charlatan, and nothing that he says or does will make the slightest bit of difference to them.
When, not if, he fails to deliver the Brexit that they want, they won’t blame him at all. This is for two reasons: a). because the cult leader is never ever wrong; and b). Brexshi**ers, like the fawning acolytes of the Corbyn cult (formerly known as the Labour Party) will never accept responsibility for their actions. Instead, they’ll go into full David Icke mode, invoking crazed conspiracy theories about how Brexit was derailed by a secret cabal of Remainers lurking within the Establishment.
Either that, or they’ll just do what they always do and blame Johnny Foreigner, comforting themselves with the fiction that Brexit could’ve been delivered if not for “traitors” and “fifth columnists” at home and those scheming, oily Eurocrats in Brussels.
Paul W says
“Nauseating charlatan” has never been a disquaiification for the office of British prime minister before (Disraeli, Lloyd George…), so let’s not start getting too picky now. The options are limited and we are not choosing the next Dalai Lama or electing the next Pope. The only thing that matters is Napoleon’s criterion for selecting a general: Is Boris lucky, is he a winner? Answer: Yes.
Of course, if it all goes pear-shaped, then Brussels will get the blame. That’s how British politics works. If the first rule of politics is being able to count, the second rule of (British) politics is knowing who to blame. Politics is an ugly business.
A schop says
Hold your horses
Civil war 2 rory Stewart playing Cromwell v king Charles boris
We know how that ended