Brexit – Is the final Tory implosion now just days away?
When considering Brexit and the current constitutional and political crisis Britain finds itself in, it is interesting to note some of the words in the 2002 Conservative chairwoman’s speech to the party conference in Bournemouth. It included such phrases as;
“We are shaping solutions rather than just playing politics, listening to the people of Britain, who’ve been so badly let down.”
“Everything we do – in parliament, in our constituencies – should be motivated by one goal. Improving the lives of our fellow citizens.”
“Politicians are seen as untrustworthy and hypocritical. We talk a different language. We live in a different world. We seem to be scoring points, playing games and seeking personal advantage.”
“Some Tories have tried to make political capital by demonising minorities instead of showing confidence in all the citizens of our country.”
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“Our party is at its best when it takes Conservative principles and applies them to the modern world. It is at its worst when it tries to recreate a bygone age. We cannot bring back the past. We can work together to make today and tomorrow’s world a better place.”
Yes, that was, in parts, the speech made by Theresa May, the current incumbent at No10 Downing Street. “You know what some people call us – the nasty party” was her most famous line – ever.
It has still not occurred to the Conservative party what is going to happen next.
Leaving aside the economic changes that were made, it is now nearly thirty years since Margaret Thatcher was forced from Downing Street and five years since her death. Thatcher is still a hate figure across much of the country, especially in the North. There is no other British political figure who has entrenched a multi-generational hatred such as Thatcher and the Conservative party of those days.
That time, a time that took Thatcher years to achieve is just a week away with even more devastating consequences. We are fast approaching the same time when a Prime Minister was brought down by her own party for the same reason – Europe.
Thatcher was elected in 1979, a time when economic reform was desperately needed. The harsh economic environment created out of ‘Thatcherism’ benefited as many as it did pauperise others. The children of those days are the parents of today and none have forgotten it. Most people cannot even name the previous Prime Minister that Thatcher defeated but no-one has forgotten her. And no-one will forget Theresa May, for she is at the centre of the complete destruction of that same ‘nasty party.’
David Cameron, encouraged by advisors who themselves were being advised by pro-Brexit think tanks has brought a type of political chaos in Britain one could only imagine in some far-off banana republic. Brexit may well be difficult for years to come and that’s fine if you can afford it, but the very policies of this Conservative party have made millions worse off as a result of the ‘austerity’ years – and they can least afford it. The expected gains from Brexit, no matter how positively you think they may be, simply won’t be worth it in the end.
Those gains, as we are rapidly learning will be very small indeed and even if they do appear as gains, they will accumulate slowly over a period of years, maybe decades. The losses, we are told will be felt quickly and like Thatcher’s seminal economic policies that reduced the North to an industrial wasteland, will be felt deeply at home, in the community and the wider country.
The nasty party has morphed. They are now as destructive and as corrupt as any that Britain has ever encountered.
The ConservativeHome website itself demonstrates the existential danger the Tories are now in. Each month, ConservativeHome publishes its Cabinet League Table, based on the net approval/disapproval rating of each Cabinet Minister. Over time, those ratings tell the story of any given individual or department’s good or bad fortune.
This is the result of their own findings. The average approval rating of a member of the Cabinet has fallen from +36.2 in April to -4.8 in November. That is a pretty devastating verdict from grassroots members on the Government’s direction of travel.
Paul Goodman of ConservativeHome said – “It is a measure of how shocking our latest monthly results are that those members would be justified in tumbling to their knees – and begging for those post-Chequers results to be resurrected. And never mind the ratings – look at the falls. Liam Fox was at 35, but is now in negative territory. Andrea Leadsom’s score follows a similar pattern. Penny Mordaunt hasn’t publicly defended the deal. Maybe that’s why she’s still in the black. Just about.” The truth is, nothing has ever been this bad for Tory politicians before.
Remarkably, the Tories have not just divided the country, they have placed the country into a no-win position and quite possibly done so for a very long time to come.
Let’s say a new referendum was one of the options parliament decided to go with. What would the question be? Would the Tory party or parliament even be able to agree this question without continued political conflict?
Would the second referendum question be: Remain or Leave, Deal versus No-Deal, Remain Versus Deal, Remain versus No-Deal. Could it be the option of two questions like Remain versus Deal – but what deal?
The Remain camp lost first time around, they could lose again and by a similar margin, where would that put the nation other than straight back to where it was. And if Leave won, which they did the first time around with a smaller margin, where does that put the nation. It all depends on the question you ask in a referendum. Nothing is certain, especially as one-third of those who voted last time had not made up their minds which way to vote just a week before.
If, for instance, Remain supporters were pinning their hopes on the public concluding that Leave is not delivering on the prospectus at the last referendum – does that mean some Remain voters would vote democratically and vote Leave? This time around it is very questionable quite where the floating voters are.
Talking of floating voters. The EU referendum was poisoned with illegal funding from outside the country. There were the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandals. There were charities now in the dock for illegal political campaigning where countless millions was funded from American corporations. Think tanks are facing the same scrutiny. The National Crime Agency is now involved in investigating illegal campaigning, as are the Police and the Electoral Commission.
There’s another problem too.
In the last referendum campaign, Vote Leave played to a growing anti-Muslim sentiment. This had serious negative repercussions in society itself but since then anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has risen sharply. And so, if you, like most of the electorate were appalled by the atrocious lies of the anti-immigration crusade last time around, then you can expect the next one to be so much worse. The far-right have been emboldened by the Brexit experience, they aren’t going anywhere.
Abstentions could dramatically increase on the basis that voters on both sides of the debate have now become completely disorientated and bewildered by the chaos and instability. They might abstain so as to not end up being blamed for the consequential outcome. They might not want the conflict at home or in their own social circles. There could be heavy voter losses through political fatigue about the confusion and lies that surround the debate.
The under 25s mourned endlessly about their future prospects being reduced by Brexit. And yet 64 per cent of them did not bother to turn up and vote. Many more will likely do so given a second chance. In fact, whichever way you look at the prospect of a second referendum – it will likely be a disaster, much as the first. So what’s the point.
Much like the political leader’s debate that was to be televised, the very people watching it were not being given a vote on it anyway – so what’s the point?
The issue for the Tories is that they have offended just about everyone one way or the other. And no matter what they do now it will stay that way. Remainers, Leavers, the young and old, they all have reason to despise the Tories.
Voting for failure
Irrespective of which camp you belong to, Tory politicians have failed to deliver the will of the people and the mandate that was given to them. The consequence is that voting to Remain in a second referendum would now be seen as voting for their failure.
And let’s not forget the outright anger and frustration the Leave voters will harbour deep inside for years to come if a second vote went against them. The fact that Brexit has been substantially watered down and then possibly shelved will be despised but not as much as they will be furious that the question was even asked again.
Does it even matter if Remain or Leave win a second referendum – who is going to unite not just the party, but parliament, the upper house and the country as a whole? Who is going to repair all this damage?
The Conservative party have demonstrated one thing and one thing only in this ordeal of their own making. They have comprehensively failed to unite behind a democratic vote and therefore not just failed Brexit and the electorate but have created a toxic political environment leading to the economic detriment to all those except those that can afford it. They have principally done little but to divide society and make everyone poorer, whilst making a mockery of democracy.
Much of the Brexit debate has been about borders on the island of Ireland. But what about the independence movement in Scotland. They have been told no IndyRef2 by Westminister on the basis of stability – whilst Westminster considers a chaotic second referendum of independence from Europe.
The chances of an emboldened and more confident Scotland to aim for its own independence has drastically increased, not least because A) they voted to Remain B) that Westminster has shown that they cannot manage the country. Why would the Scots want to be dominated by a failing political environment 400 miles away who have totally different values to their own?
Scotland only needs to show to its own people that it can stand on its own two feet economically – and independence is guaranteed. That moment is not too far away either. The EU only has to show a helping hand.
The Westminster Tories, already despised in Scotland could well be the party that destroys the Union. And who could blame the Scots?
Today’s Conservative party was founded in 1834. Some historians can trace its origins back to the 1780s and William Pitt The Younger with others going further to King Charles I in the 1620s. For nearly 400 years the Tories can trace their DNA. The Tories of today are the ancestors of Conservatism. It is Sir Robert Peel who is acknowledged as the founder of the Conservative Party as we know it today.
Its domination of British politics throughout the twentieth century has led to them being referred to as one of the most successful political parties in the Western world. And like the Liberal party who found out to their cost in the early stages of the First World War, mismanaging the country can cast you aside to be little more than a placard in a memorial park or a picture hanging on the wall in an ancient building in Westminster.
This century, the Conservative party is all but finished bar a miracle of some sort. There is no going back now. They will soon be damned and then doomed forever. But this time, it will be so much worse than the hate figure created in the image of Thatcher.