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