Note 1: This article was first published in Country Squire Magazine on 8th June 2018.
Note 2: Schedules 1 and 2 which are lists of Conservative MPs who have been classified under this report as being either at high risk, or at moderate risk of losing their seats has been redacted from this edition.
Note 3: The version with schedules attached have been sent to selected senior Conservative MPs. If any Conservative MP wishes to know more details, then they are welcome to contact the editor at Country Squire or DM me @Drystonesonnet on Twitter.
1.0 – Executive Summary
The current chaos and confusion exhibited by the government over the Brexit negotiations begs the question: What will be the electoral consequences of a ‘failed Brexit’ or a ‘weak Brexit’ or even ‘no Brexit’?
To answer that question, this report analyses the 2015 and 2017 election results for every current Conservative MP and their constituencies. These are tied back to the 2016 referendum results and a recent petition (which is still ‘live’) which has now accumulated over 170,000 signatures. Approximately 7,000 individual pieces of data have been entered onto a spreadsheet and subjected to successive statistical interrogation.
To assess the vulnerability for each Conservative constituency and MP, the movement of votes between 2015 and 2017 was calculated and then risk scores were allocated under the following categories: ‘Majority’, ‘Brexit vote’, ‘UKIP’ and ‘Voter volatility’. These were then added to give a ‘Total risk score’. The individual MPs which are most at risk of losing their seats in the next election are listed below in Schedule 1 – Highest Risk category and Schedule 2 – Moderate Risk category.
These categories suggest that between 30 and 90 Conservative MPs are at risk of losing their seats at the next election.
As part of this analysis, the long term political memory of the public was tested, and a clear correlation found between the referendum results and the petition asking for a referendum to abolish the House of Lords. This suggests that the issue of Brexit will be easily carried forward to whatever the future date of the next election might be. It also suggests that the public are becoming increasingly better informed and radical in their approach to the political establishment.
Aside from the statistical analysis, this report looks at the ways in which government policies have shifted away from the public consensus; and into territories which are occupied by fewer voters than is the natural ground normally occupied by conservative thinking. As well as Brexit, there are many issues which are not being discussed by the Conservative Party, but which are converging to create a series of crises which will make the current government look even more leaderless and incompetent than it already is.
The only way to avert impending electoral disaster is for the Conservative Party to hold a swift leadership election and install a new leader who is not only committed to Brexit but has the clarity of vision to cut a clear path through the current confusion. Furthermore, he must be able to set the country on the course that is necessary to exploit the rich opportunities which lie ahead of us.
This report started life as an analysis into the possible behaviour of electors in a few vulnerable Conservative constituencies. Certain MPs who have made their allegiance to the Remain cause very public (and who have rebelled against the government) were examined in the light of their majorities and the Leave percentage in their constituencies. It quickly became clear that predicting electoral outcomes for those MPs was difficult, even assuming the Brexit vote of their electorate being a principle driver of future electoral behaviour. Furthermore, the outcomes would be very mixed, depending upon the characteristics of each constituency. Much depended upon the majority attained at the last election, the strength of the Leave vote in that constituency and the way in which voters switched allegiance to and from UKIP.
As a result of this heterogeneity, there was no alternative but to conduct an analysis extending across all current Conservative MPs. Approximately 7,000 individual pieces of data were entered onto an Excel spreadsheet for the General Elections of 2015 and 2017.
Another part of the calculations took the ‘Leave’ percentages for each constituency, along with the number of signatures in to the petition for a referendum to abolish the House of Lords for each constituency. This petition was chosen as a test to see if the issue of Brexit is still ‘live’ in the minds of the voters. Furthermore, the very large number of signatures acts as an indicator for the way in which the public are linking together fairly complex issues in politics. A sample size of 165,000 is considerably more than any opinion poll, and acts as a much better guide to public opinion (and even public mood) than a tiny poll of little more than 1,000 adults.
This correlation of signatures and Leave votes gives the lie to the view, frequently held by politicians and pundits, that the public are not bright enough to understand the complexities of government business. The advent of the internet and much greater diversity of news and opinion away from the old model – a tiny number of vast corporations which filter the news – means that the public is better informed than ever before. The modern British electorate is now one of the best informed and most sophisticated in the world. Expectations of political competence are now higher than they have ever been and are growing with each year that passes.
This report identifies the following:
- The increasing complexity of the political situation as it has developed around Brexit.
- The electoral risks associated with:
‘Ordinary’ electoral majority
- The movement of the Parliamentary Conservative Party away from the central tendencies of the electorate.
- The individual MPs who are at most risk of losing their seats at the next election (Schedules 1 and 2).
3.0– Recent history and growing complexity
It is worth recalling some of the factors contributing to the situation we now find ourselves in. The following is a swift timeline of political events:
- 2014 – the EU elections which brought 24 UKIP MEPs into the European Parliament. Labour returned 20 MEPs, Conservatives were knocked into third place with 19, and the Liberal Democrats a mere one MEP. This was a shock to the Tories.
- 2015 – a scheduled General Election, the timing determined by the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011. UKIP fielded a candidate in nearly every constituency in England and many in Wales and Scotland. Disappointingly, they managed only one MP but polled 3.9 million votes. The vagaries of the First-Past-The-Post system left them under-represented in Parliament. By contrast the Liberal Democrats, having polled 2.4 million votes, achieved eight MPs. But having polled so many votes, UKIP became a clear and present threat to the Conservatives because they had reduced the Conservative majority in many constituencies.
- 2016 – David Cameron announced a referendum on membership of the EU. The purpose of this was pacify his more restive backbenchers and head off the threat from UKIP at the same time. The Government position was to Remain in the EU. Cameron clearly thought he would win the referendum in the same way as the earlier Scottish Independence referendum was won – i.e. that people would vote for the comfortable status quo.
- 2016 – The EU referendum voted to leave the European Union by a margin of nearly 4% in the biggest vote for anything achieved in any election in the UK. David Cameron promptly resigned. The Conservatives held a leadership election and voted Theresa May as their new leader, and by extension, the new Prime Minister. Mrs May immediately set out her stall in terms of unequivocally respecting the vote and setting out to leave the European Union. This is despite her appearance during the referendum campaign as a lukewarm Remainer.
- 2017 – The Conservatives were achieving a 20% lead over Labour. With only a small majority in Parliament, Mrs May decided to go to the country in a snap election ‘to secure a greater Parliamentary majority’. UKIP were caught on the hop. A recent confused leadership election had brought the colourful but wacky Paul Nuttall into the leadership. UKIP’s campaign was ineffectual and chaotic. An important point to note is that both Labour and the Conservatives were now committed (on paper) to respecting the vote to leave the EU. This effectively shot UKIP’s fox and their vote was squeezed by the two big parties. By contrast, Labour found thousands of younger voters who were enthused by the idea that Socialism had never been tried properly. Jeremy Corbyn had done a successful job of presenting himself as an honest man and the Labour election machine clicked into action. The Conservatives conducted a mediocre campaign which left the electorate uninspired. As a result, the Conservatives lost seats and returned as a minority government with the aid of an arrangement with the DUP.
- 2017/2018 – The government is now mired in electoral weakness. This has been extensively manipulated by the EU negotiators. Conflicts within Cabinet, outrageous demands by the EU commissioners, Parliamentary shenanigans in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and an incessant background of negative chuntering from the Continuity Remainers has dominated the mainstream news outlets. Whilst the government are showing signs of capitulating to the EU and Remainers, the electorate are showing signs of impatience.
A useful summary of these events is shown in diagram form, is the following which shows what seems to have been the expectations of David Cameron and Theresa May in succession. The deep red arrows indicate public discontent with the status quo. Dark blue arrows indicate normal or intended governmental progress.
Figure 1– What David Cameron expected to happen.
After the 2017 General Election the outcome of the muddle that the election left behind is summarised in the following diagram:
Figure 2 –What Theresa May expected to happen
As things have developed further, the situation becomes ever more complicated, as summarised in the following diagram:
Figure 3– The development of events away from the ideals envisaged by Theresa May.
The above flow charts give a suggestion of the increasing and unintended complexity of events over the last four years. In the last twelve months the complexity has increased enormously, and with it, public impatience. It is worthwhile reminding ourselves that in the same time period seventy-odd years ago, Britain had gone from retreating from France and standing alone in Europe and the Far East, to mounting (along with our allies) the largest ever seaborne invasion the world has ever seen, before or since, back into France. This huge logistical and military operation absolutely dwarfs the pathetic efforts of the current government in trying to negotiate a simple agreement with countries who are nominally our allies. It is little wonder that the public are becoming restive.
4.0 – The Political memories of the Public
Opinion polls are one way to test public views on given matters. However, these suffer from two principle disadvantages: The first is that they use very small sample sizes of between 800 and 2,000. These have all sorts of built-in biases, some of which are discussed in some detail here. The second disadvantage is that the pollsters themselves have the same biases as the Metropolitan elites. Accordingly, they are insensitive to matters which are actually exercising the minds of the public, particularly away from London and the Home Counties. Consequently, opinion pollsters often fail to ask the right questions.
There is a tendency amongst the Westminster elites to dismiss the public as knowing very little of the subtleties and nuances of political life. Because of this intrinsic arrogance, there is a concomitant tendency for Westminster to be unaware of things which are happening in other parts of country. As a result, when these unknown or ignored events converge with an election, they may provide some unpleasant surprises. The rise of UKIP in the 2015 General Election was a complete shock to David Cameron, who had famously dismissed them in 2013 as “fruit-cakes, loonies and closet racists”. There is a temptation amongst Westminster punditry to dismiss UKIP – again because of their poor performance in the 2017 election. However, that is to ignore the conditions which brought UKIP into prominence in the first place. These conditions were a strong Euroscepticism combined with what eventually became the vote to leave the EU. These conditions have not gone away. Indeed, if anything, they have strengthened because the prospect of finally and absolutely leaving is apparently receding as Downing Street wraps itself in dithering and weak leadership.
Another jibe thrown at the voter (behind their backs) by the political classes is that the electorate have the memory span of a goldfish. This is a rather surprising view, given the fact of certain political events, such as the poll tax in Scotland and the miners’ strike in the coalfields, where hatred of Margaret Thatcher has been enshrined in folklore. Other events such as the reasons for going to war in Iraq return again and again in discourse amongst the politically aware.
A risk assessment such as this carries with it an implied condition that the public do in fact have very much better memories than politicians ascribe to them; and that past events will inform future events at the ballot box. This section tests whether the memory of the Brexit vote is still alive, two years after the vote. If the memory is still alive, then it could easily transform into votes for UKIP. This would have a profound effect upon a future General Election where the public is presented with an incumbent government which has not, in fact, delivered Brexit.
4.1 – Testing the Memories
The recent behaviour of the House of Lords in their attempts to reverse the result of the referendum has brought a great deal of public opprobrium down upon their Lordships’ heads. As a result of their behaviour, a petition was started to ask for a referendum to abolish the House of Lords. Some of the possible consequences of the government failing to provide that referendum are discussed here. These official petitions are useful because they provide an interactive map of the number of signatures within each Parliamentary constituency. The following is a screenshot of the map obtained on 18th May 2018:
Figure 4– Screenshot of petition signatures, by constituency. (Accessed 1700 hrs, 18th May 2018)
The dark red shows those constituencies which held the largest number of signatures. In fact, this map bears some superficial resemblance to a similar map which shows the number of Leave and Remain votes cast during the referendum:
Figure 5– Leave and Remain votes by constituency
Even a fairly casual examination of the two maps suggest that they are very similar in geographical pattern, which suggests that they might be linked in some way. As the referendum instructed the government to withdraw from the EU; and the House of Lords have repeatedly sought procedural means to keep the UK in the EU, it would seem reasonable that the number of signatures attracted by this petition is related to Brexit. This hypothesis was tested by noting the number of votes and the number of signatures for every Conservative constituency. These were then tested for correlation with the following graph and calculation:
Figure 6– Correlation between Leave votes and Petition signatures, by constituency
The chart in Figure 6 shows that the correlation is very close indeed. This suggests that the petition for a referendum to abolish the House of Lords is very closely linked to the Leave votes in each Conservative constituency.
The usual caveat uttered whenever correlation is used is that correlation does not prove causation. The unspoken corollary to this statement is that if there iscausation, then there mustbe correlation. However, it is fair to say that in this case, the correlation is very close and that the two events – referendum and petition – appear to be linked in some way. The links are that the referendum instructed the government to leave the EU and the subject for debate in the House of Lords was the ways and means of reversing the democratic decision of the people.
The test has therefore been passed and it can be said that public memories of events two years ago are still fresh and likely to affect the results of a future election.
5.0 – The changes between the 2015 and 2017 General Elections
Figure 7 is the spread of the Conservative and second party votes in every Conservative constituency, along with their majorities for 2015 and 2017.
One of the features of the 2017 election was that many Conservative MPs increased the number of votes polled in their favour, but had their majorities reduced. Figure 7 shows this happening. In broad terms, whilst the Conservatives increased their votes (dark blue boxes) so too did the second parties (red boxes – which were nearly all Labour). In fact, the second parties did better in capturing new votes than the Conservatives; and this is why Conservative majorities (light blue boxes) were reduced.
The additional votes which moved to both Conservative and second parties were derived from two sources. The first and most obvious being UKIP, whose votes in 2015 were seriously squeezed by the two main parties in 2017. The second source were additional voters coming into the electoral scene from new voter registrations and also a higher turnout. The higher turnout is a phenomenon first noticed by UKIP and Nigel Farage after the 2015 General Election. Farage made the observation that many people voted for UKIP who had never voted before. Most of these would have voted for Leave in the 2016 referendum, where the turnout was even higher than in 2015. By the 2017 General election, the turnout had reduced slightly from the high of 72.2% achieved in the referendum, down to 69%.
Figure 7 – Votes polled for conservatives and 2nd parties; and change in Conservative majorities.
The volatility in both number of electors actually casting their votes, and the number who apparently change their political allegiance is an important factor which will be examined in detail later in this article.
A question which arises from these figures is whether the 2017 election was influenced in any way by the outcome of the 2016 referendum. If a relationship exists at all, then we would expect a correlation between the Leave votes and the change in Conservative majority for each constituency. This is tested in Figure 8 below.
Figure 8– Correlation between the change in majority and the Leave votes for each constituency.
The correlation coefficient, r = 0.49 is lower than the coefficient r = 0.75 obtained for the relationship between the referendum and the petition shown above in Figure 6. Nevertheless, there are still good grounds for assuming a slightly weaker relationship between the 2017 election and the referendum. The explanation for this weaker relationship rests in the events leading up to the 2017 election, which can be listed as follows:
- Theresa May went to the country, because she needed a larger majority to get the Brexit legislation through Parliament. Whilst this ambition was honourable enough, the risk was based upon some very favourable opinion polls, showing Conservative leads of up to 20% over Labour. As the election campaign proceeded, this opinion poll lead melted away into nothing. Going to the country based on information received from opinion pollsters may not be such a good idea.
- Both main parties had declared that they would respect the result of the referendum and that they would withdraw from the EU.
- UKIP’s raison d’êtrewas to campaign for withdrawal from the EU. On the face of it, this had all but been achieved, given the electoral promises of the two main parties. This left voters with the option of returning their vote to their usual favoured party, which they did in huge numbers. In 2015, UKIP polled 3,862,000 votes and in 2017 they managed only 594,000 votes.
- Shortly before the 2017 election, UKIP had undergone a bruising leadership contest with a huge amount of internal fighting. In the event, Paul Nuttall, a cheerful if somewhat colourful character, won the contest. A poor and disorganised campaign followed in which UKIP failed to capture the number of former Labour voters they had hoped for. Indeed, the figures suggest that many Labour voters had ‘lent’ their votes to UKIP in 2015 and taken them back again in 2017. Many Conservative voters did the same thing.
- The Conservatives ran a poor and confused campaign which muddled socially liberal ideas with other ideas like a promise to revert to fox hunting. This was compounded with a relentless repetition of a “strong and stable” message which wound up the electorate by patronising them.
- Labour had recently attracted huge numbers of supporters, many of them 18 to 24-year olds. Many other new Labour supporters were the kind of far-Left Militant Tendency types who had been thrown out from the party back in the 1990s. These were now styled ‘Momentum’ and provided eager boots on the ground for what became a surprisingly slick campaign.
- Nevertheless, the message that the Conservatives were the party to lead the UK out of the European Union was a strong undercurrent.
As a result of these confusing factors, the relationship between the referendum outcome and the 2017 election results is slightly muddied and is why the correlation between the two is not as strong as it might be. Despite this caveat, there is reasonably strong evidence from the data that Brexit was a strong undercurrent of voter motivation for the 2017 election.
6.0– Voter Volatility
Voters can be divided into two broad classes: Those that will vote for a particular party, regardless of its leadership and policies; and those that have a history of voting for any party depending upon circumstances at the time of the election. The usual labels for these two groups are ‘Core voter’ and ‘Floating voter’ respectively. The advent of the internet and multiple sources of news and information means that the second group is growing at the expense of the first. There is, of course, a grey area in between these two groups – of voters who are usually inclined to vote for one party but are open to the ideas of another based upon their merits.
For the purposes of this paper, the term ‘volatile voter’ will be used to describe those voters who will switch parties, or even come into and out of electoral activity, depending upon the seriousness of the situation at the time of the elections. There is more than one source of volatile voters.
6.1– Latent Voters
These are the people who are registered to vote, but who do not actually do so in most elections and will only do so at times of acute national circumstances. Their numbers can be estimated fairly accurately at the moment, because we have had a General Election in 2015, a referendum in 2016 and another General Election in 2017. In raw numbers, the turnout was:
2015 General Election: 30,697,525; 66.4% turnout
2016 EU Referendum: 33,577,342; 72.2% turnout
2017 General Election: 32,204,124; 69.0% turnout
From these figures, it can be seen that 2.9 million more voters turned out to vote in the referendum than voted in the previous General Election. However, by 2017 the number of voters had dropped by 1.4 million again. The number of latent voters is therefore around 1.4 million who may decide to vote in the next election. The political inclinations of this group are unpredictable but are quite likely to be registered as some sort of protest against the incumbent government.
6.2– Switching Voters
These are voters who will switch their votes from one party to another. They may do this for various reasons, including tactical voting – voting for a party specifically to split another party’s votes. They may be voting with negative intentions like a desire to punish a particular party. The Liberal Democrats lost a lot of votes in 2015 and 2017 because of this. Or they may decide that a particular party looks a better bet for the country than the one that they voted last time. A large number of voters switched from UKIP in 2015 back to Labour and Conservative in 2017. In some Conservative constituencies, voters switched to Labour from the Conservatives. Overall, from the Conservative constituencies, at least 17% of voters switched parties between 2015 and 2017. Voter volatility caused by switching has been measured and scored for each constituency.
7.0 – Other risk factors
7.1 – Brexit vote
The size of the Leave vote in each constituency is a mark of the inherent weakness of each Conservative MP in that constituency. Regardless as to how each individual MP views Brexit, if the government fails to provide clarity and a clean exit, then the effects will be felt right the way across the electoral landscape.
It is a mistake to assume that the country is still split 52/48 on Brexit. Although opinion polls are given to large errors, there seems to be consensus amongst them (as well as anecdotal evidence) that not only is the Brexit vote holding up, but that perhaps up to half the people who voted Remain accept the democratic result and now want to get on with it.
7.2 – UKIP vote
UKIP achieved a relatively small number of votes in the 2017 election, compared to their current high point during the 2015 election. However, to dismiss them as a busted flush would be pure folly on the part of any Conservative candidate or serving MP.
With the departure of Nigel Farage as leader, the party went through a series of convulsions which has seen a succession of leaders. Their leader during the 2017 election was Paul Nuttall who is a cheerful, if somewhat colourful character. As a result, UKIP failed to capitalise upon the working class votes they had previously won over, particularly in the North and the Midlands.
Nevertheless, their party machine is still in place and their new leader, Gerard Batten, is quietly impressive. Batten is beginning to talk about issues such as freedom of speech, Tommy Robinson and the industrial scale gang rape of children by a group who are comprised principally of Muslims of Pakistani origin. In terms of public discourse, this latter is a subject that no Conservative MP has had the courage to tackle. And yet it is one that is uppermost in the minds of the electorate in those places where UKIP is strongest, and the Conservatives are at their weakest. UKIP are once again giving voice to what people are thinking, just as Nigel Farage did before the 2015 election and the referendum.
On top of that, UKIP are re-emphasising their core message, which has always been that Brexit has to mean actual exit from the clutches of the EU, and not some soft compromise where we are still governed by EU laws and pay a huge ransom for the privilege.
The threat from UKIP to Conservative MPs is very real and will return with a vengeance at the next election unless the government deals decisively with Brexit and a growing list of other issues. The effect of a strong UKIP performance will be to split the Conservative vote more than it will split the Labour vote.
7.3 – Low majority
A small majority is the risk factor that all MPs will have ingrained in their memories. They will know who their opponents are and what party they represent. Those with small majorities will be the MPs who work hardest for their constituents. These will also be the most well aware of local issues which could tilt the balance away from them. However, they will be helpless if the party swings away from the centre ground of what public opinion really is – as opposed to a central party view of what public opinion ought to be.
For these reasons, a small majority is given a high weighting in this risk assessment.
8.0 – The Tory Lurch to the Left
Generally, the core vote of the Conservative Party has remained pretty close to the centre of British politics and public opinion. As a party, they have occupied this centre ground for most of the last 120 years or so. That centre ground can be defined in terms such as: individual responsibility, universal education, hard work, family values, tolerance of others, economic freedom, the rule of law, and constraint by the state with its principle duty being to protect its own people.
Unfortunately, these core values have been eroded steadily since the end of the Second World War as the country has shifted towards a welfare state which has produced many benefits such as the NHS and social security, but which is now being carried into the homes and lives of individuals in such a way as to dictate peoples’ behaviour. This process has been exacerbated by our membership of the EU but is not the sole cause of it. The embrace by Leftist intellectuals and academics has brought an apparent consensus towards the ideals of cultural Marxism and post-modern thinking that has seeped inexorably through the education system and the governing classes. The nanny state is now pervasive. But whilst manifestations of this seem to happen without our consent and throughout our lives, the majority of people are beginning to wake up to various manifestations of this thinking and beginning to express, not just doubts, but real objections to them.
Meanwhile the Conservative Party has embraced some aspects of post-modernism (ideas such as the benefits of untrammelled immigration) without thinking through the consequences. The result has been a steady movement towards the intelligentsia which comprise the governing classes, and away from most other people – and therefore voters. The diagrams below explain what has happened.
Figure 9– Density distribution of the electorate and socially liberal attitudes
The darker the red, at the centre, the more people there are that have those attitudes. Likewise, attitudes of people closer to the centre tend to be more socially conservative than those towards the outside. The centre is not illiberal but merely closer to the norms.
Figure 10– The electoral ground traditionally occupied by the Conservatives
The Conservatives have traditionally occupied the centre ground, and this is what has made them electorally successful in the past, because this centre ground is where the majority of the electors lie.
Figure 11– The movement of the modern Conservatives into ground with fewer voters
9.0 – Coming soon to a constituency near you
The following is a very short list of the kind of problems which are building up behind the shelter of the Brexit chaos. Few, if any, are openly acknowledged by the Conservatives. All of these and many more will come back to bite the Conservatives by the next election. Meanwhile, UKIP are already talking about some of them.
- HMRC IR35 debacle which will adversely affect many small businesses and self-employed people.
- HMRC and 39 late projects delayed by lack of information about Brexit.
- Continual NHS mismanagement.
- Failure to deal with immigration levels.
- Loss of control of the streets of London by the Metropolitan Police.
- The scandal of child prostitution and grooming gangs across the UK, along with the studied failure of senior police and other law officers to do anything about it.
- Suppression of freedom of speech and shutting down of debate of anything involving Muslims by using ‘hate crime’ and ‘Islamophobia’ as legal means.
- Creeping imposition of Sharia Law.
- Halal slaughter.
- Crisis in recruitment for armed forces.
- Failure to protect former and serving armed forces personnel from vexatious prosecution.
- UK armed forces increasingly enmeshed into EU army/defence force.
- Farmers concerned that they do not have enough labour to cope with this summer’s harvest.
The response by government has been to utter ineffectual platitudes and attempt to shut down debate and fail to find adequate solutions.
10.0 – Conclusions
The issue of the European Union and our exit from it has been ‘live’ in the minds of large numbers of the public for several years. It was this issue that brought UKIP to be the largest UK group in the European Parliament in 2014; and it has echoed and reverberated throughout our political sphere ever since. Far from the matter subsiding, it has continued to exercise the public consciousness. The petition and its correlation with the referendum shows that issue is still very much alive in mid-2018.
As matters currently stand, the government’s performance in negotiating with the EU from a position of strength is manifestly dismal. The impression that is given to the public is that the EU negotiators seem to be walking all over us by making a series of impossible, or very expensive, demands and for which they are giving no concessions in return. The over-riding impression is that the government is going to sell us down the river for the sake of a quiet life in Brussels, Whitehall and Westminster. And that we, the taxpayer, will be paying yet another expensive bill for the sake of very little return.
Meanwhile, matters as outwardly trivial as the Prime Minister’s performance at PMQs has been dreadful, with wooden platitudes instead of substantive answers. Assurances of a “good Brexit” from Mrs May read more like a “no Brexit” with every day that passes. Small bombshells – for example those fired recently by the hauliers in saying that, so far, none of their concerns have been answered – are actually devastating. Without truckers, our economy grinds to a halt within hours.
There is the over-riding impression that the last two years have been utterly wasted and the planning for a ‘no agreement – WTO rules will apply’ has been almost non-existent.
And yet politicians in Westminster appear to be immune to the apocalypse that is looming on the horizon. There is an over-weaning arrogance and complacency by MPs in apparently safe seats who insist upon their God-given right to reverse the clear instructions given by a democratic vote of the people. The public are becoming increasingly impatient that nothing is actually happening and that the government, little by little, are slipping into a level of chaos that has not been seen for a very long time.
Whilst most of the Remainer MPs may think they are safe, many (perhaps even most) of the Conservative seats in the North, the Midlands, the South West and East Anglia are at risk. The next election will be lost in England and Wales beyond the comfortable leafy Tory heartlands surrounding London.
The 1997 General Election brought a landslide victory for Labour; and the Conservatives lost 171 seats. This risk assessment suggests that the losses could easily be between 30 and 90 seats. It is possible that the losses could be even greater. The lead up to 1997 was marked by difficulties that were quite small, some even trivial, compared to the difficulties that the country now faces. In 1997 the government finances were in good repair. But the public viewed the government as tired and incompetent. By contrast, Labour looked new, young and exciting. It took 13 years for the Conservatives to recover. Something similar could easily happen again at the next election.
The only chance that Conservatives have of recovering from a set of grievous, self-inflicted injuries is to remove Theresa May as Prime Minister and leader. They must also remove all of the current team surrounding her – Philip Hammond, Sir Jeremy Heywood, Olly Robbins and all other Remainer advisors. They must be replaced by a strong, decisive leader who is totally committed to Brexit. Surrounding that leader must be a team who are equally committed to Brexit. Because of the way that negotiations have been mis-managed – the EU have twisted ours tails at every opportunity – the only kind of Brexit now available to us is the ‘no agreement’ WTO rules option.
It isn’t just Brexit that needs managing. Section 9 of this report gives a short list of problems that are taking shape and converging upon a dis-functional government – and which will reach crisis proportions very shortly. Whoever replaces Theresa May will need to cut a clear path through the confusion that these issues will inevitably create. Otherwise the Conservative government will collapse well before 2022.
The country is heading rapidly into crisis. We need a Churchill (or a Thatcher) to lead us out of this mess with clarity and resolve. At the moment, all we have is another Neville Chamberlain who is leading us into a morass. Labour will be the political beneficiaries of this chaotic leadership and that will lead the country into places that not even Harold Wilson dared to take us.