BY JON ALEXANDER
With European and Local Elections just on the horizon, realisation is finally starting to dawn on the “it’s fine” brigade of the Conservative Party. Nigel Farage’s week-old Brexit party is now in the lead in polls and expected to win a landslide in Europe. Meanwhile the Tories are expected to suffer heavy losses in council elections.
I’ve seen a lot of frantic Tory MPs and Councillors alike desperately trying to minimise the losses at a local level – admirable, but futile. Their position that voters shouldn’t vent their frustration at the national government over Brexit by making local councillors suffer is understandable but let’s be honest here – the party really hasn’t left the electorate with much choice.
Theresa May refuses to go until her Brexit deal has been passed – no other options will be considered. MPs are unable to call for another no-confidence vote until December. And, more recently, any attempts to vote no-confidence in Conservative MPs and try to deselect them is countered by Head Office. What exactly are the membership expected to do? Their goodwill has been tested to its limits by an incompetent government that is dissolving right in front of our very eyes, there is no leadership or management at most top levels now and despite constant pleading from the membership the upper echelons of the Conservative party will not budge. This was only ever going to go one way – a message needs to be sent to the powers that be that they haven’t performed. Simply asking the voters to stick with it when you constantly give them two fingers is not going to cut the mustard.
The Conservative party will argue that the economy is doing brilliantly. It is. However, as Brexit has proved and will prove again, “it’s not the economy, stupid”, so these arguments won’t appease those who gave the party their votes back in 2017 in the name of Brexit. These people and more than half the country are bloody furious at the perceived denial of democracy – we should have left a month ago.
The party continues to argue that much worse is waiting in opposition – they are correct. But how do you convince voters who weren’t alive under the last hard-left government that Labour are bad with money when your own party has allowed the wasteful HS2 scheme to spiral out of control? How do you convince the voters that you can control the public purse strings and spend wisely when you lose £18million on an election that resulted in a net loss of seats and meant you could not deliver Brexit the way you promised? How do you convince the voters that you are a responsible government when you have a minister that has reportedly lost nearly £3billion and has not been held accountable? More importantly, how do you justify the cost of “no-deal” Brexit preparations only to cancel them because you never had any intention of delivering no deal in the first place?
Trust is a major issue for the Tories, they could walk around giving a cheque for £100,000 to every household and nobody would trust them enough to take it. This is the very problem they have, and it is entirely self-induced. The Conservatives promised a referendum on Europe. They promised to deliver it. They failed to explain what that would entail and, most importantly, they failed to consider the possibility that they would lose and be faced with actually leaving the EU.
Yet, when Cameron stood down and Theresa May was installed, she and her team charged around the country telling everyone who would listen how great this government would be – a party for everyone, a Brexit in full and for everyone, our second female Prime Minister that would not only continue Maggie’s legacy but would be even better. Our second female Prime Minister would be everything to everybody and lead the Conservative party into a new era, a golden dawn full of Unicorns. For the most part, the electorate believed them, lending them over 13 million votes in the surprise election called by May back in 2017. She needed a stronger hand in the negotiations, she had a vision for the country and needed us behind her. She rewarded them with a manifesto that could be described as the second longest suicide note in history, a hung parliament leaving the DUP as kingmakers and a party utterly deflated. But still her PR team rumbled on…”Theresa is the only one who can deliver Brexit.” Indeed, a bit of whimpering on TV and she was back on the road, “Brexit means Brexit”, “no-deal is better than a bad deal” and once again, although slightly bruised, the voters were motivated by her spin to see this through.
Despite failure after failure, the party came back with “trust us, we can do this”. Even after May scraped through a leadership challenge back in December, we were still being told “no-deal is better than a bad deal”, she repeatedly claimed a second referendum would not be considered. Then, her withdrawal agreement was rejected for a second time. Everything changed. She tried to bully, threaten and bribe her deal through. All of a sudden, she started mentioning a second referendum, despite saying she never would. She started to mention no Brexit at all, despite saying this would never happen. She even started requesting extensions to Article 50 even though she said she never would. Suddenly no-deal was off the table. Why? Merely because the public and a large section of the party didn’t recognise her dreadful deal for the genius she clearly believed it was. Now we’re holding European Elections, despite being told that wouldn’t happen.
In addition to this May kept saying she was listening yet never changed tactics, never brought on new people to help, never considered any other option except her withdrawal agreement. Never has anybody ever held the country, the party and more importantly democracy, to ransom quite like this. May is so detached from reality she can’t even maintain the façade for longer than a week – no sooner had she agreed to stand down, she is then telling interviewers she wants to stay on. At this point, if she shook your hand, you’d need to check you had all your fingers left. Yet the party still expects us, the voter, to blindly trust them.
May is rightly detested. It feels like having Erdogan as Prime Minister. It feels like we have a dictator in charge.
The party has run out of trust and excuses. When they were polling at over 40% we were told the country was right behind Theresa and any question of her stepping down was ridiculous, reckless and not the right time. Now the party is plummeting in the polls, they are begging the electorate not to punish the party.
The question the party should consider is a very simple one:
How long will you let this go on for?
Hearing all the excuses, are you willing to be wiped out in both the European and Local elections? Are you confident that even with a new leader you can recover enough in the next three years to overturn this downfall and stay in government? Cameron called the referendum to take the wind out of UKIP’s sails…now we have the Brexit Party on the scene – so that ploy worked out well! How will the Conservatives convince the electorate they can be trusted when they’ve done the exact opposite of everything they’ve promised with Brexit for which so many voted?
Are the Tories prepared to fight an election? It would only take the ERG to switch to the Brexit party and this gets even worse.
My main gripe, personally, has been the “this is the best we can do” attitude…this has summed up May’s Premiership and Government…they don’t even strive for excellence now, they throw out any old crap and expect the electorate to be grateful, they can do this because Corbyn in government would be much worse. Once again, they’re taking the voters for granted – it wasn’t the voters that got you into this position. It wasn’t their fault your obsession with having a second female Prime Minister overrode everything else. It’s not the voter’s fault you have no domestic policies, you have no vision, you have no control. It’s most certainly not the voter’s fault you lost your majority, as you like to point out – it was one of the highest turnouts and vote shares for the party ever. It is the party’s fault that they cannot organise themselves properly, it is the party’s fault that mediocrity is the new outstanding and it is the party’s fault that Brexit has not been delivered.
Get her out.
Drag her out if you need to – save the Conservative Party and the country.
Jon Alexander is one of the founders of Country Squire Magazine.