(The following article has been written by a member of COPOV and is a personal reflection on the current political situation and does not necessarily reflect the view of other COPOV members)
The party conference season is over and it is back to business as usual. In the last eighteen or so months everything has changed and nothing, it seems, is better. I am profoundly depressed and frightened by what the future holds. A referendum campaign which has split the country in two setting family members against other family members, a USA President totally out of his depth and who seems to think that shouting slogans such as ‘Rocket Man’ is going to solve anything, a tin pot dictator in a far away country threatening the world with nuclear weapons, the major opposition party in the U K now led by a group of M P s who worship the doctrines of Karl Marx and a government in office but not power led by people who voted ‘Remain’ in the referendum and who have no idea as to how to implement ‘Brexit’ effectively. The ‘botched’ general election campaign has given the Labour leadership a spring in its step and credence to an ideology that has enslaved and murdered millions over the last hundred years. That is unforgivable and we must take full share of the blame. Yet our party has been dying for the last forty or so years. I would contend that the last real general election win was in 1979 when Margaret Thatcher formed her first administration. Each win since -four outright (1983, 1987, 1992, 2015) and two biggest party (2010, 2017) – is the result of special circumstances surrounding that particular general election. The 1982 Falklands War rescued Margaret Thatcher whose economic policies the previous year had been castigated by 364 leading economists. The rise of the SDP / Liberal Alliance in both 1983 and 1987 split the parties of the left leading to easy victories for our party. The result in 1992 after a recession was probably ‘touch and go’ with Neil Kinnock’s disastrous Sheffield Rally speech in which he looked more like a circus ringmaster than a Prime Minister in waiting tipping the balance in John Major’s favour.
The vagaries of the first past the post system however meant that John Major’s overall majority was only 21 even though the party polled 14 million votes, its highest ever. Since then it has been downhill all the way. After thirteen years in opposition so called modernisation and a financial crisis in 2008 we still could not win outright in 2010; in 2015 only the complete annihilation of our former Liberal Democrat coalition partners gave us an overall majority (we actually lost two seats overall to Labour). But nothing was more disastrous than 2017 when an unnecessary general election was called by the Prime Minister and an opinion poll lead of 15 to 20 points was needlessly thrown away.
That Jeremy Corbyn, rejected by three quarters of his parliamentary party, should increase the Labour vote by 10% is no mean achievement. But how and why did this happen? He offered hope – an end to austerity, the writing off of student debt, more resources for the NHS.etc. We shot our own supporters in the foot with the ‘dementia’ tax, offered nothing new and completely failed to expose Labour’s irresponsible spending commitments which would ruin the country and would make a mockery of all the difficult financial decisions taken in the last seven years. As a country we are still spending 50 billion a year more than we raise in taxes and the debt interest is enormous.
That the general election would be fought simply on which party would be the better at delivering Brexit was a non starter; other issues were bound to crop up but the complete lack of any kind of strategy was fully exposed and was fully exploited by the other political parties.
Probably our biggest failure over the last twenty years has been trying to outsmart Labour on its own natural territory. Because we were reduced to 166 seats in the House of Commons in 1997 and Tony Blair was at the time the master of all he surveyed we assumed that the only way back was to court progressiveness. Hence we readily accepted at one of our party conferences our Chairman telling us we were a ‘nasty’ party (this comment alone giving ammunition to our political opponents should have disqualified her from the highest office) and we had to do something about it. I have voted Conservative all my life and I certainly don’t regard myself as nasty; quite the opposite in fact.
Nastiness is not confined to any one particular party as the recent Labour Party conference in Brighton showed. But we took it as gospel and alienated a lot of voters who would you believe are conservatives with a small ‘c’. Brexit happened partly because millions of Labour voters in the north of England and the Midlands were unwilling to be part of a European super state whose leaders appear to be accountable to no one but themselves, wanted control over who comes into this country and the problems excess immigration can cause in the fields of housing, education and health, and laws made in the United Kingdom Parliament and interpreted by U. K. Judges. And instead of being called patriots they are labelled racists, out of touch etc. Yet we were warned fifty years ago as to what might happen by a politician now long dead; a politician who changed parties and whose name is, simply due to political correctness, unmentionable and erased from history .Yet he was one of the most brilliant scholars of his time, was a Cambridge don, rose to the rank of Brigadier in the Second World War, and was for one year a Member of the Cabinet. We have allowed what is known as ‘cultural Marxism’ - the idea that the white population- in particular white males- are oppressors of other races, that heterosexual marriage and the procreation of children is not to be encouraged, and that religion and in particular the Christian religion is as Karl Marx said the opiate of the people – to manifest itself in various ways and have done little or nothing to combat it. The left has had a field day but like everything else the left is never satisfied. You could spend 200 billion on the NHS and the left would still want more. In 1987 Neil Kinnock thought he had seen off the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party yet it was only sleeping and in 2017 has reared its ugly head in the form of Momentum. It says something about the current state of the party that Tony Blair the most successful Labour leader at winning elections in its 117 year history is now regarded as a pariah and a traitorous war mongerer by the members of the party he led for thirteen years.
Europe has been the cancer at the heart of our party for nearly sixty years. If you read the history books it was only with great reluctance that Harold Macmillan’s 1961 Cabinet agreed to consider entry into what was then the Common Market. To facilitate this Macmillan could have chosen no greater believer in the European super state that his chief negotiator Edward Heath who when he became Prime Minister in 1970 made sure by every means he could that Great Britain would eventually lose its sovereignty and become simply a province in a greater Europe. This was concealed from the general public but one only had to read the Treaty of Rome to see that this together with complete economic and monetary union was the plan. And every Conservative Prime Minister from Margaret Thatcher through to Theresa May has fallen on the European sword. It has nearly destroyed us. How can two former Chancellors, John Major and Kenneth Clarke, who want to remain in the European Union and two, Lords Lawson and Lamont, who want to leave the European Union, be in the same party? No: the decision to hold a Referendum however desirable was a way of papering over the cracks; a device to stop more Conservative voters deserting to UKIP. And when in the course of time the referendum was held and Leave won there was no adequate preparation for the outcome as the Establishment and the Civil Service were for Remain. And that is why we are in the current mess ; a minority government trying to negotiate its way out of a bureaucratic nightmare with a Prime Minister who refuses to say which way she would vote if the referendum were held now, a First Secretary and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who are at heart both Remainers, and a Foreign Secretary whose ambition knows no bounds but who judging by his speech at the party conference, at least seemed to believe that there could be a bright future ahead outside the E. U.. And what kind of Brexit? No one seems sure. The European negotiators who know that when we leave there will be a financial hole to fill are determined to squeeze as much cash out of us as they can They are placing all sorts of obstacles in our way and deliberately making life difficult. I voted ‘Remain’ but with no real conviction (better to hold on to nurse for fear of something worse) but having seen what is going on and the intransigence from the Europeans I would vote Leave were there to be another referendum. Of course having never dreamt that any country would be so foolish as to leave they are now being vindictive and petty and against a country which from May 1940 to June 1941 stood alone with its then Empire and American allies as a beacon of hope and freedom in a continent over run by one of the vilest tyrannies ever known to mankind.
I said at the beginning of this article that our party is dying. What then of the future? What is the point of being a Conservative if it is only to mimic the Labour party in the extension of state control over each and every one of us? Who is making the case for lower taxes, free markets and dare I say it capitalism? We seem more intent on not offending this group of people or that group of people than of making any attempt to build a property owning democracy based on conservative principles. And because we seem unable to do this we have lost a generation of younger people who out of desperation look upon Jeremy Corbyn as their saviour. We have to find solutions and fast. We need to use what young talent we have in the party to its fullest potential. It means giving a bigger say to people like Ben Houchen the new mayor of Teesside and to our younger Members of Parliament. It means less centralised control from Central Office; it means that local associations are given the right to choose their parliamentary candidates. It means that more people like Kemi Badenoch, the new Member of Parliament for Saffron Walden, are encouraged to join the party, to participate in policy discussion and formation... And to say why they support the Conservative Party.
We need to nail the lie that we are a party only for the rich. We have voters from all creeds and classes; our M P s are far more representative of the population as a whole than it has ever been. The Labour Party’s slogan ‘For the Many not the Few’ implies that our party is exactly the opposite. We never ever seem to question that assumption. We are too timid in defending our values. Too afraid to say what we believe. The Corbynite luminary Laura Pidcock is filled with hatred for the Tories and our policies and made particular reference to the food banks in her constituency. Why has nobody taken her up on this? For everybody knows that a Corbyn government would be such a disaster that there would be plenty of banks with no food in them at all. And how many millions starved to death under Joseph Stalin in the USSR, a country so loved by the Pidcocks of this world.?
The clock is ticking and time is short. Brexit will probably happen in some form or other. Hopefully the Remainers in our party would come on board and try to make it a success. The prospect of a Corbyn government should concentrate our minds wonderfully. The Labour Party policies would have far more scrutiny and surely we could not run such an abysmal election campaign as in 2017.
I cannot even bear to contemplate Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister leading the nation’s mourning at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday morning. Yet that could possibly happen if our party cannot get its act together and quickly. Courage and vision seem in short supply but they are sorely needed now. Who in our party can rise up to the challenge? Who is our new Winston Churchill?