When the Exit Poll came through last Thursday night I was thrilled. Not because the Tories had won, however; because Labour had lost. Badly. Let me explain…
I had built up a resentment after suffering several weeks of scathing social-media posts from socialists, clearly biased media reporting, and outright lies spewed from disciples who worship at the altar of self-righteousness that is the Labour Party.
I was expecting to catch a whiff of the humble pie that was surely being served for supper. Oh, how I was wrong!
But what did I expect? After all, if the last ten years have proven anything, it is this- when it comes to democracy, this ‘New-Left’ aren’t interested. Between petty protests, pointless petitions, and petulant non-propriety, they have not accepted an exercise in democracy graciously since 2005:
- 2010 General Election – Protested.
- 2015 General Election – Protested
- 2016 Brexit Referendum – Protesting, still
- 2016 Presidential Election – Protested in the UK, for some reason
- 2017 General Election – Protested
- 2019 General Election – Protesting now
The only elections that seem to be acceptable have been the EU Parliamentary Elections (where the Brexit Party were the runaway victors by securing almost twice as many MEPs as the runners-up) and the AV Referendum in 2011, which induced the Lib Dems to the decade of disappointment that has developed for them. I assume because nobody really cares enough about these, but I digress…
So, what has been the response from the Labour Party since their train was derailed? There’s a double-track answer–
- the media were unfairly against Jeremy
I have had multiple migraines from morning commute radio that I’m too exhausted to revive, but the next reason is the main one.
- “It’s because of Brexit.”
Wow. Imagine Brexit being a key issue in this election. It’s not like people wanted a clear position or anything…
But seriously, this one bothers me. Jez has the most consistent anti-EU voting track record of anybody currently in the House of Commons (markpack.org.uk/153744/jeremy-corbyn-brexit/ if you want to see this condensed). Wouldn’t the ‘Brexit election’, whereby their own admission the people were voting to “get Brexit done”, have him placed far in the lead? It would have, had he been honest about his position.
I don’t agree with Corbyn. I don’t trust him, either. However, I once respected him for his consistency and willingness to push back against the establishment in his party, even at his own expense. That’s now gone, too.
So, how does the Labour plan to rebuild itself after such a crushing defeat? Corbyn is going, which is a step forward. However, McDonnell has stated that the next leader “should be a woman”. How very cosmopolitan, but it’s not very genuine…
Scotland has a female first minister. Northern Ireland has both female first and deputy-first ministers (or, will do when they decide to go to work). The UK has had two female prime ministers. The entire world is filled with great female leaders. But they haven’t come through artificial manoeuvring and puppetry. They haven’t been used as a rebound course, and haven’t been some plant to help sweep votes after a bad election. They have been organic; women who have worked hard and earned their way to the top; that is why they have been successful. The Labour party hasn’t had so much as an elected female party leader.
Cast your mind back to 2015 and the Labour Leadership election – a result which wasn’t protested! Running were two men and two women. That’s also the order in which they placed. With only 21% of the vote, Cooper and Kendall were confuted by card-carries who clambered to Corbyn.
So this plan is nothing more than political posturing, and the people should be wary.
McDonnell doesn’t want to help women; he wants to use them to help himself.
Indeed, it is well-past time. Theresa May needs to resign, and she needs to do it soon. If she won’t resign, then the Cabinet and the 1922 Committee need to sort it out.
That’s my conclusion after the UK and EU agreed to extend the Article 50 deadline for withdrawal from the EU to 31st October.
Political commentators are saying May is likely to resign after the local elections, or else the European elections, so that her successor is not contaminated by the results, which are likely to be awful. I have a few things to say about that.
First, trusting that May will go after the local or European elections does not seem like a good idea to me – events could move on and she could find a reason to stay on. Which would be a disaster. There is no real convenient time to do a leadership election while in government – we need to get on with it.
Second, why would we waste almost six weeks of a six month extension on watching the clock until after the European elections? With a PM who is unable to make any progress because everyone knows she’ll be gone soon? It doesn’t make any sense. It would be a waste of precious time.
Third, if the Conservative Party puts itself before the country for one minute longer, we’re finished. Absolutely finished. Please, just do what needs to be done.
Fourth, why is this idea that a new leader would be ‘contaminated’ by the election results being accepted? It doesn’t make sense. Everyone knows that Brexit and May are causing us electoral harm. People won’t just forget that because ‘Ooo! New leader!” – because, actually, people aren’t stupid.
Fifth, if you do think a new leader would be contaminated by the elections, why not do the leadership election at the same time? So we get those results, and then the day after (or week after) the new leader is in place. That way, we’re not wasting time.
Yes, I want to run a leadership election campaign alongside the local and European elections campaigns. I think we need a full campaign, with the opportunity for a proper debate about Brexit, the Conservative Party, and what we want to do in every other policy area after Brexit. To decide what, as a Party, we now believe in. Crucially, members need to have the final say.
Yes, such a campaign would be best done during summer recess when there’s plenty of time and space for navel gazing. But we don’t have that luxury anymore. We missed that chance. We missed that chance when May stayed on as leader after her terrible General Election performance. We missed that chance after the Chequers Plan was published. And we missed the chance of a leisurely leadership election when Conservative MPs voted for May to stay on in December.
This is urgent; this needs to be done now. No more running down the clock, no more trying to be cleverer than is good for us, and no more treating the electorate as though they are stupid. It. Is. Time. May must go.
A lot of activists – and inactive members – are walking away from the Conservative Party. Even more are keeping their memberships in hand for a future leadership election, but refusing to get out there and campaign in the local elections.
Not me. Every weekend, and sometimes a mid-week session or two as well, I’m out there knocking on doors. Not just taking the easy ‘you don’t have to talk to anyone’ route of delivering leaflets; but actually knocking on doors and asking people what they think.
As you can imagine, it is not easy. Actually, it is hell out there. I am campaigning in heavy Leave voting areas in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. These are Labour held areas, but within them are seats – both council and Parliamentary – that are Conservative targets.
I came out strongly against the Chequers Plan when it was first published, and then the Withdrawal Agreement. The WA hasn’t changed since, and neither has my position. I support those Conservative Brexiteer MPs who voted against the WA.
And my stance means that I am coming in for criticism from two directions.
On the one hand, people who back the WA consider me ‘impractical’ and ‘disloyal’. I don’t mind this, since these are the kinds of people who put Loyalty before Principle, and Party before Country. I have no interest whatsoever in doing either of those things.
On the other hand, Brexiteers who feel as I do about the WA and also think we should have left the EU on March 29th are criticising me for continuing to campaign for the Conservative Party. This article is for them. This is why I keep on campaigning:
1) People deserve to be heard
Never have people felt more ignored. Their opinions disregarded; their vote seemingly meaningless to a Remainer Parliament.
And it’s not right. They should have a way to express their opinions that is not just shouting into the abyss that is social media. They deserve to be heard, they deserve to be listened to, and they deserve to have their views fed back to Conservative HQ.
That’s what I’m doing. I simply don’t believe in stopping listening when people stop having nice things to say. I don’t believe in quitting when it gets hard – we should be listening more now, not less.
There is a secondary benefit to listening to what local people have to say, and that’s that it makes holding firm on my position easier. When people call me disloyal, or try to say Brexiteers are angry with the ERG for voting against the WA, or whatever other fairytale line – I know better. Knocking on doors gives an important reality check; especially since straight-talking northerners cut through the Westminster BS and tell you exactly what’s on their minds.
2) Local elections are important
It’s not often you’ll hear people say this, but they really are. The elections in my area on May 2nd will determine all kinds of important things including who sets council tax and who manages local services.
We have got some great local candidates. Some experienced political veterans, some enthusiastic young newbies, and everything in between. I think our local area will be better off if they are elected as Councillors over the alternatives.
It might be an old fashioned view, but I think being involved in politics is substantially about public service. And just because we’re annoyed (yes, this is an understatement) with the Conservative Party leadership and government, that doesn’t mean we should abandon our local communities.
We’re not kids, and we shouldn’t be having a strop and walking off with the ball. I want the democratic vote of 2016 to be respected, and it seems to me to be inconsistent to call for that whilst ignoring other elements of democracy – like local elections.
3) The Conservative Party is bigger than May
Yes, she is the leader. Yes, she is the figurehead. But the Conservative Party is bigger than Theresa May. She is now acting contrary to the views of a majority of her MPs, and has long been acting against the views of a majority of the membership.
These activists and members are the core of the Party. I am getting messages from multiple people every single day despairing at what is going on; at what May is doing to the country. I say the same thing to them all: if you leave, you lose your voice. There is going to be a reckoning, and those of us who can see that what the government is doing is wrong need to be part of it.
I don’t think the Conservative Party is dead. The future of the Party will be decided by the people who show up, and so I am showing up. It is likely that at some point this year we will have a leadership election: I will use my vote in it wisely.
Once we have a new leader, the Conservative Party will have to rebuild. It will still be in government, and it will have to decide what it does next in terms of Brexit – where ever the hell we’ve got to by then – and in terms of every other area of government too. My voice will be stronger because I have continued doing the work through the tough times. My voice will be stronger because I am listening to voters and can argue for a future on that basis.
“Keep buggering on”, was what that most famous of Conservatives, Winston Churchill, said.
The Conservative Party is the most successful British political party. Our electoral record of success surpasses that of our political rivals. The Conservatives have been in office for the majority of the time that Britain has had a mass democracy. Quite simply, the Conservatives are the governing party of modern British politics.
I thought it important that we remind ourselves of that. For weeks now there has been headline after headline and article after article on how our party is doomed, “finished for at least a generation”, and that it will “forfeit its political relevance”. With headlines like that, who needs an opposition party. I welcome the fact that there is a new energy and enthusiasm to develop fresh ideas. I welcome that there are MPs more interested in thinking than drinking – well, maybe thinking and drinking – but I do not buy these arguments of impending political Armageddon, and I am certainly not convinced that a party that has such a vibrant youth activist base is incapable of appealing to young people.
I’m fed up of all the doom and gloom. I’m fed up of us talking ourselves down when actually our party has a great story to tell. It’s time to inject some optimism. I couldn’t agree with my colleague Priti Patel more when she said to The House magazine that “The relentless negativity associated by politicians – actually, the establishment in Westminster and Whitehall – is dreadful. They should be at the forefront of being advocates of change, taking on the reins of freedom, empowerment, meritocracy, looking at what change could mean for our country.” In 1987 43% of 18- to 24-year-olds voted Conservative. Why? Because the party was entirely in tune with the aspirations of the British public.
Our party is at its best when we advocate and embrace our basic and fundamental values of freedom, liberty, democracy, capitalism, free enterprise, deregulation, wealth creation, choice, property ownership, law and order, nationhood and strong but limited government.
When we stick to our values and fight for our principles, we win.
In 2017 we went into an election with a majority and came out the other side having lost it. No doubt lessons will be learned, and I’m not going to go over old ground on the number of reasons as to why that happened. The key issue for me was that the manifesto offered to the electorate a rejection of laissez-faire capitalism; a rejection of free markets; a rejection of individualism; and a rejection of Thatcherism. Fundamentally, it set us on a course out of step with the aspirations of the public. I was astonished to read the manifesto’s opening gambit, setting the tone for the whole document, which stated:
“We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.”
In dumping the great legacy of Thatcher and our core values that individuals know better than the state and that free enterprise and capitalism are inherently good, the manifesto time travelled all the way back to the interventionist traditions of the 1950s. That’s not the party that I joined.
It has become increasingly obvious that we need to make the argument in favour of free markets and limited government, not just within the party to help it find its compass but also to make these arguments throughout the country given the significant risk and threat posed by a Corbyn-led Labour Party.
It is terrifying that in modern British politics the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell publicly stated that it is his mission is to overthrow capitalism, to bring down the UK’s system of free enterprise and to radically transform society to a socialist society. The system as we know it faces an existential threat.
This would result in higher taxes, more debt, fewer jobs and less money. Labour would bankrupt our economy and do untold, unmitigated damage to our country.
As Conservatives we know that the socialist-inspired consensus politics and the model of redistribution nearly took the British economy off a cliff. The ingrained damage it did took decades to recover from. We are at first principles a party of low tax. We understand that if the state simply confiscates the fruits of hard work and risk-taking through punitive taxes that there then is no incentive for people and businesses to push themselves to succeed. Why have we allowed the words “free market” and “capitalism” to become tarnished as if they are cold and cruel concepts? Further, why on earth did we allow our own manifesto to turn on those concepts and tear them apart. It’s time for our party to return to its principles and with missionary zeal promote the ideas that these principles inevitably lead us to. We will then enable people and businesses to unleash their full potential and reach the bounds of their imagination.
More recently the Health and Social Care Committee, under the banner of tackling childhood obesity, proposed the following measures to be adopted by the government: a ban on sponsorship deals by brands associated with high fat, sugar and salt products for sports clubs, venues, youth leagues and tournaments and extending the sugar tax to milkshakes alongside other “fiscal measures”. Further, it has been reported that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is keen to introduce a watershed on adverts for products that contain high levels of salt and sugar in the same way we have one for showing sex and violence on TV. Apparently plans include not only banning the selection of sweets at shop checkouts and two-for-one deals, but Percy Pig may also face the chop as well as unlimited refills of your Fanta at Nando’s. And I can’t believe I’m even about to write this, but yes, there’s even a proposed ban on Tony the Tiger!
This is an alarmingly nanny state style approach to take. Sacrificing consumer choice and freedom for all responsible people on the altar of childhood obesity. No doubt the big government zealots will accuse me of not caring about the well-being of young people. Nothing could be further than the truth. Firstly, it’s blatantly obvious that these measures are not being targeted at children but at you and me. As a Conservative who believes everyone should have the opportunity to aspire and achieve, I want our children to have the best possible start they can in life and to be able to live the life they choose. I do not believe that restricting choice to this extreme, to restrict freedom of speech and expression with bans on adverts and packaging and for the government to nanny people is the best way to achieve it. Education and encouraging responsibility are merely two examples of what can be done. Growing the economy and creating well-paid jobs are others. The possibilities are endless.
I would also make the point that, as a Scot, I know that some of our greatest national dishes are very high in unhealthy ingredients. Don’t even ask what’s in a haggis! Some of our greatest national dishes help us to promote the UK abroad. They feature heavily in the GREAT Britain campaign. How can the government with one hand promote that our food is great with massive billboard advertisements at home and abroad, but at the same time say that they want to ban the advertising and promotion of products high in salt and fat?
As I’ve mentioned being a Scot, it would be remiss of me to not turn my attention to Scotland where Nicola Sturgeon runs the most illiberal, authoritarian and centralising government.
Nationalist reforms have centralised power to an unprecedented degree in Edinburgh, sucking powers from communities and councils across Scotland and into the hands of nationalist ministers.
A number of their legislative changes and reforms have been an affront to personal freedom and liberty; an assault on personal responsibility and choice. Fundamentally, Nicola Sturgeon believes she knows everything better than you, even, chillingly, when it comes to raising your children. The nationalist administration doggedly pursued a scheme to appoint a Named Person or “state guardian” for every child under 18 in order to “monitor what children and young people need” with the “power to assess well-being”. Thus, removing quite a sacred right of a parent being allowed to determine these things themselves and to raise their own child. This really is 1984 stuff.
Thank goodness the SNP were stopped in their tracks with this offensive scheme by the UK Supreme Court.
From policing to education, the SNP have a top-down authoritarian, one size fits all approach. Like nationalists everywhere, they sacrifice individual freedoms – our freedoms – on the altar of their nationalist agenda.
Linking into what I was saying about UK plans to tackle obesity, Nicola Sturgeon chummed up with freedom and choice hater Jamie Oliver, and she is now planning to ban two-for-one deals on pizza. Well, I’m laying down this marker now. She can keep her hands off my Meat Feast!
It was Ronald Reagan who said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The duty lies with us to make the arguments for freedom and liberty – within the Conservative Party and the entire country – as today the libertarian ideal is in more danger than ever before.
To finish where I started, Conservatives accept change, but we don’t believe in change for change’s sake. The very purpose of change must be to actually improve what already exists. Changing in order to preserve, not destroy. Therefore, the recent siren calls for immediate change because we are facing impending decline are simply not the Conservative way. To me they don’t sound very Conservative at all. Rather our values of free enterprise, liberty, individualism and freedom have always been a pull for voters. We cannot sacrifice these ideals in the pursuit of a mythical centre ground. We need to stand by our convictions. That is how we used to win and that is how we will win again.
Just a few days after the general election I wrote on these pages that I was worried. Worried that if the Conservative Party continued focusing on the positives of the campaign and the result we would not reach a full and proper understanding of what went wrong and why. I was also worried that if the Conservative Party did not demonstrate its understanding of the anger and frustration that had led to so many people voting Labour and Conservatives losing seats, then our position would be under threat long term.
Almost three months later I am very sorry to say that my worst fears are coming true. I read today on ConHome that the CCHQ review into what went wrong is expected to present recommendations only, rather than a full report of the assessment of people on the ground.
This week, the Prime Minister announced that she intends to stay on and fight the next General Election – and various people have lined up to pretend she’s right.
Recent polls from YouGov and ICM put the Conservatives and Labour neck-and-neck, indicating that the party has made no progress towards restoring confidence since the vote. I’m told that it’s OK, because the polls say people think Theresa May would make a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn, but YouGov’s latest put May only four percentage points ahead of Corbyn, down from a 13 point personal lead just before the General Election.
The feeling among activists is of chaos, frustration and anger. The feedback I am getting from committed, loyal, hard working activists includes things like “madness”, “ridiculous”, “we’re in freefall”, and “they just don’t get it”.
I’m sorry to say, I agree with them.
What I don’t think has been fully appreciated in the Westminster bubble is just how precarious our reputation – and therefore our position – is out in the country. We are extremely lucky that Labour has chosen this period to be in even greater chaos, because even a minimally credibly opposition would have banished our party to the wilderness for several election cycles.
There are four key things that anyone who wants to see Conservative governments returned in the future needs to understand:
- No matter how you cut it, we lost GE2017. We lost seats, and that’s what actually matters. Trying to spin it into a positive story is insulting the electorate’s intelligence and only serves to push them further away.
- Despite winning a majority in 2015, that result was not a resounding victory either. People voted Conservative as a least-worst option. They voted Conservative as a leap of faith, and then wanted to be persuaded that they had made the right choice.
- This year, many of the people who voted Conservative held their nose to do so. They have no love or enthusiasm for the party – only fear of Jeremy Corbyn. They distrust us, dislike us, and are angry with us. If a vaguely competent opposition emerges we are incredibly vulnerable.
- Conservative activists are absolutely raging. There is no other way to put it. There is no more goodwill left to draw upon. Long-term committed activists have fled. More have adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach, hoping to be convinced that it is worth staying and putting in the work. Their patience will soon run out, leaving a rump of activists who are, frankly, masochists.
At the same time, the sands of British politics continue to shift. The old class allegiances have broken down. Demographic changes and the perceptions of the young are not in our favour. And Brexit has raised expectations: the country voted to take back control, and part of that vote was for a higher quality, more in touch political class.
Right now, the Conservative Party’s approach is dominated by two things: fear of messing up Brexit, and fear that infighting would damage the party, leading to fresh elections and possibly a Corbyn government.
These concerns are real and valid. But the idea that getting Brexit right (whatever that actually means) would rehabilitate our reputation and make the public trust us again is for the birds.
Too often people in politics seem to think that they can spin their way out of a crisis, and that a rabbit-out-of-the-hat policy announcement can solve any problem. But over decades the Great British public have wised up to these games: they see straight through it.
Ordinary people – who all too often are looked down on by Westminster elites – have developed an extremely sensitive ‘BS monitor’. They may not always be able to explain exactly how and why you are doing it, but they know when something is up: they know when you’re spinning, selling a policy you do not believe in, trying to distract them, or fudging the numbers.
It may be an uncomfortable concept to many who have spent their political lives parroting lines and getting their understanding of the real world via the media, but the only way out of this mess – the only way to rebuild trust – is through honestly, openness and authenticity. Please let’s change direction before it’s too late.
Conservative activists up and down the country find themselves groaning (again) as a scandal involving young Tories unfolds (again). I’m not going to write about the debacle surrounding the launch of ‘grassroots’ organisation ‘Activate’. Suffice to say it has been disaster, and the approach and comments of members of the team that have been reported in the press do not reflect the party I love and activists I know.
What I want to talk about is why this keeps happening.
Why did RoadTrip2015 fold after being engulfed in a scandal of the most awful kind?
Why did Conservative Future die away after a sorry set of developments?
Why has this latest campaign group appeared and disappeared with such spectacular failure?
To me, the answer is actually pretty straight forward: the Conservative Party undervalues its activists, and particularly its young activists.
Young people were treated as cannon fodder by the Conservative Party in successive elections; called on to deliver leaflets and knock doors during the campaign period, but with no effort to value or engage them through the political cycle.
This lack of interest in the grassroots party left it vulnerable to unscrupulous people who wanted to build an empire and use youth campaigning as a spring board into professional politics. The central party didn’t mind it happening as long as it delivered campaigners to key constituencies, even going so far as ignoring repeated warnings from many sources of the dodgy practices within various party-affiliated groups.
When it could no longer ignore these problems, when private complaints blew up in public and our movement lost one of its finest, the Party did not respond constructively. They shut it down. They promised a review, a new group and all that jazz, but two years later they haven’t got round to doing anything meaningful.
In the two years since the Conservative Party abandoned youth politics (and sat in Westminster wondering why not very many young people vote Tory) many people have recognised that this is a problem. That to be sustainable over decades the party needs to pull in young people. That to win elections in the here-and-now, the party needs to have committed and enthused activists. And that as our Conservative Associations up and down the country see their average age rising, we especially need young people who can knock on doors for four hours solid.
Many people have also realised that the garden party, the drinks at the yacht club, and the national draw are not in any way even mildly interesting to even the biggest political geek under the age of 25. The Conservative Party is old. Its thinking is old. Its approach is old. And it’s an incredible shame because despite the impression the media gives, there are thousands and thousands of highly committed, highly engaged young Conservatives up and down the country.
The gap has been filled by amateurs like Activate. Though they have spotted the gap, through lack of experience, poor networks or less than honourable intentions they have really messed it up. And we are all damaged by it. Every story that portrays young Conservatives as nasty, out of touch amateurs hurts our reputation collectively and individually, no matter how different we are to those featured or how distant we are from their ill-conceived scheme.
It is time for CCHQ to grip this. And to do so it needs to do three very simple things:
- Change their attitude: Stop viewing activists as a necessary but distasteful evil, and realise the importance of a valued and engaged voluntary party.
- Draw on expertise: To establish a safe and engaging youth wing, the party should be looking to best practice from youth workers and others around activities and safeguarding. This is not rocket science and it doesn’t need to be innovative – just get the basics rights.
- Cut out the ambition: This new structure needs to cut out the multiple positions, the older people with questionable motives working with the young, and the sense that a leadership role in the young Tories is a stepping stone to bigger things – this will then remove the incentive for unscrupulous people that have been attracted to youth politics in the past.
My message is simple, and it is clear: the longer you leave this, the worse it will get. For goodness sake please sort it out.
It started so well. A 20 point lead in the opinion polls had us dreaming of a commanding majority, a clear mandate and an opposition on the precipice. Then it slowly turned into a nightmare as dozens of seats fell and at one point some bookies had Corbyn as favourite to be the next Prime Minister. By the end we were watching from behind the sofa.
Theresa May had a shocking campaign. To stand on little more than two alliterative adjectives and then fail to live up to either of them was unforgivable and she must take full responsibility; the only woman to have had a worse election campaign than Diane Abbot.
Throughout the campaign, in a series of increasingly cringe worthy TV appearances, she looked awkward and uncomfortable, like Mary Whitehouse at an orgy. Her character, her manner, even her voice, are all potent ballot box kryptonite but there is a deeper and more fundamental reason behind the catastrophe– Tory Paternalism is a hollow creed.
When all is said and done Tory Paternalism is little more than ‘Diet Coke’ socialism. And when up against the full fat, sugary goodness of Corbyn’s Magic Money Tree May’s lukewarm statism is a poor substitute. Who would choose a weekend in Bognor when the other side is offering a fortnight in Disneyland?
To fight on a Paternalist platform allows Labour to frame the narrative, we play to their strengths. The discourse is then dominated by the idea of the state providing and Labour will always offer more.
Corbyn had a good campaign but we should have seen that coming. If nothing else he is a born activist and he came into his own on the campaign trail. But we were playing on his terms to try and campaign on what government can provide rather than how government can liberate.
Much was made of Corbyn’s terrorist links but in the end people just didn’t care. For millions of voters now the IRA belongs in the history books not the newspapers and Hamas has long had legitimacy amongst the chattering classes.
The obvious target was the bat-shit crazy economics in Labour’s manifesto and this should have been an open goal to the Conservatives but this opportunity was squandered as our own manifesto appeared to have been written on the back of a fag packet moments before last orders were called.
Fiscal responsibility and economic competency should be the cornerstones of any Conservative election campaign and the fact that we couldn’t take on Labour in our comfort zone illustrates the aimless impotency of Tory Paternalism. There is nothing to sell, nothing to believe in, nothing to be passionate about. No vision, no mission, just the bland, hollow platitudes of insipid One Nation Toryism. The PM was criticized for not talking to people enough, the truth is she didn’t really have anything to say.
It is now clearer than ever that we needed a Brexiteer to assume leadership. How did we ever expect a leader who never believed in Brexit in the first place to lead the country towards it? We needed a leader who believed passionately in the power of free markets and individual rights, in a bright future of endless possibilities. We got a leader who appears to believe in nothing. At the very least we needed a leader who was prepared to fight. We needed Churchill, we got Captain Mainwaring. This is a mistake we must never make again.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty
It is natural for people to look for silver linings when something bad has happened, but unless there is a proper assessment of what went wrong and why, this can look dangerously like being in denial.
And this week’s general election result is no different. Already I see MPs and Conservative activists talking about how the result is ‘more complex than you would first think’ because overall Conservative candidates got more votes than ever before, and the party achieved a greater national vote share than it has enjoyed in a long time.
But as the key defenders of the First Past The Post electoral system, Conservatives should know that the only result that really matters is how we did on seats. And Theresa May and the campaign management team lost on seats.
By focussing on the positives to come out of this we run the risk of not having the full post-mortem that is so sorely needed to make sure the Conservative Party doesn’t so spectacularly misjudge the national mood again. And this year, the discussion into what went wrong is especially necessary because there isn’t a ‘national picture’. There isn’t a single story of what happened in this election. For example:
- Where the Ukip vote collapsed, in some places it went wholly to the Labour Party, in others the Conservatives, and in many more split to varying degrees between the two.
- In some places the Lib Dem vote collapsed and went to different parties, whilst in others it increased – and in some seats it increased enough to win.
- In places the Labour vote went down, and in others the Conservative vote went down.
- In others, both the Labour and Conservative votes increased to different degrees.
- In Scotland, votes changed all over the place – in some seats SNP voters went to the Conservatives, Lib Dems and/or Labour; and in other places Lib Dem voters went to Labour and Conservatives; whilst elsewhere Labour votes went Conservative.
To understand how this happened – and how CCHQ totally missed it happening, despite some Conservative candidates saying they were worried about holding their seats (and who went on to lose) – will take a lot of work. In the coming days and weeks Conservatives for Liberty will be sharing our own assessment of what went wrong and why.
The key priority must be rebuilding trust with the electorate. Only 2.4% more people decided that the Conservatives were a better option than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party – with all that means. And of those people who voted Conservative this time, a large proportion – perhaps even a majority of them – voted Conservative only as the least-worst option.
That is the real danger the Conservative Party faces now; and if they do not act swiftly to assure their own voters and waverers who voted Labour this time that they have understood frustrations and anger at a campaign that took votes for granted and did little to present a positive vision of Conservative government, then those seats where Labour pushed Conservative MPs to slim majorities will be at risk. And let’s be clear: Conservatives should not now, nor ever, lower themselves to insulting the electorate and blaming voters for this result.
I believe that one of the important steps towards this trust building requires Theresa May to step down as Prime Minister. Given the difficulties of a hung parliament, this should not happen right now. But once the agreement with the DUP is settled, Brexit negotiations have opened, and a Queen’s Speech has passed Parliament, May needs to resign to allow a leadership election in the summer recess. Ideally, she would announce this intention within the next two weeks to allow the Conservative Party machinery to prepare for the transition.
Emily is the Chairman of Conservatives for Liberty. Follow her on Twitter: @ThinkEmily
The morning of 24 June 2016 was a memorable one for all sorts of reasons. Amid tumbling currencies and the sound of liberal tears the one memory that has stayed with me is of staring, barely awake and bleary eyed, at the TV as David Cameron stepped out into Downing Street to throw in the towel.
When I had finally decided to turn in only one London counting area was left to report and Leave was so far ahead that I knew it was over. Three hours later, as I desperately tried to re-caffeinate myself, the enormity of what we had achieved finally sunk in. For a moment, I felt a tinge of remorse as a leader I’d campaigned for numerous times over the previous decade announced, with typical grace, that he was leaving the stage. I’d helped accomplish something the hysterical Left never could. Putting this emotional awakening down to lack of sleep in the week leading up to the referendum I quickly pulled myself together and went to face my perplexed work colleagues.
Was I right to dismiss the sadness I felt that morning? Subsequent events suggest not.
For months, we’ve struggled to pin down what Theresa May actually believes and if the creepily titled ‘Forward, Together’ manifesto is anything to go by then the answer is ‘not much Conservative’. It’s a wholesale swallowing of lazy left-of-centre interpretations which places the party to left of Ed Miliband in some policy areas. It aims squarely for the centre-ground and lands somewhere on the left. In row Z. Philosophically, the Conservative platform is entirely collectivist. ‘Forward, Together’, contains 456 instances of the word ‘our’. ‘Your’ is used just 11 times. It contains a reference to the wholly debunked gender pay gap.
Cameron did have his wishy-washy moments – a trip to see melting glaciers springs to mind – that led many to consider him as a PR man on a rebranding exercise. This was unfair – there was a philosophical credo running through his approach to government, in evidence as early as 2006.
To a certain extent, the economic crisis put paid to many elements of Cameron’s vision but injected new life into others. The much-pilloried “Big Society” really was a truly conservative response to many of the challenges of the day. It aimed to empower communities and restore much that gargantuan government and the ‘cradle to grave’ approach had destroyed. As a response to the challenges posed by globalisation it certainly had potential and demonstrated a reforming zeal that May and her inane, endless, hair-of-the-dog chatter about ‘the good government can do’, quite simply lacks.
Cameron embraced the power of markets but favoured the rolling forward of society. As a Liberal Conservative he accepted that freedom reduces inequality. May says ‘We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and ideology not just as needless but dangerous.’ She exists to govern for governing’s sake.
The policy outcomes of this fundamentally different approach have been laid bare in the manifesto. Yes, Cameron and Osborne wanted the deficit eliminated by 2015 and they failed in that. The 2015 manifesto set the target for eliminating the deficit by 2018 though, missing the original target by three years. Conservative candidates are now fighting on a platform of not running a surplus until ‘the middle of the next decade’ so that government can demonstrate more of the good it can do. More debt, more spending and almost certainly, more taxes.
Very often conservatism lacks a dynamic. It can be argued, probably with some merit, that that is the point. The phrase ‘strong and stable’, which is fast becoming emblematic of the staidest election campaign the Tories have ever run, is almost an extreme parody of what many within the party see as their raison d’être. But the cautious approach adopted by May only really works when in government. Cameron on the other hand had to take the Tories into government from a low base and then build a majority five years later. In retrospect, it’s possible that the scale of that achievement has been massively underappreciated.
Doing so involved uniting a party and doing it so well that both libertarians and one-nationers who currently have daggers drawn over May both felt comfortable, to varying degrees, with his leadership. That May chose to launch an assault on the party’s Libertarians in her first conference speech as leader and has continually sought to caricature large swathes of the party membership as dangerous extremists in the Momentum mould, was telling.
While Cameron often shot down opponents to his right by questioning their desire to see the party win, this didn’t stop him making strong appointments of a libertarian nature when the challenge required it. It’s safe to assume, to take one example, that we’ll never see prison reform on the agenda again. Not least when the person largely responsible for the mess is Prime Minister.
Come back Dave, all is forgiven.
Neil Wilson is CfL Campaigns Director. Follow Neil on Twitter: @libertyneil
Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Attribution: Toms Norde, Valsts kanceleja