Friday, June 14, 2024
HomeCOVID-19Why I, a long-suffering Tory activist, can’t be bothered with the election

Why I, a long-suffering Tory activist, can’t be bothered with the election


THERE are many reasons to dislike or avoid Facebook, its ban on TCW being one of them. But my feed occasionally throws up a meme like this one that speaks for the nation.

Kathy Gyngell has set out why this election isn’t worth dominating your life, and the public largely agree. Polling by Matt Goodwin, Professor of Politics at the University of Kent, shows 34 per cent think Sir Keir Starmer would make the best Prime Minister, 19 per cent think Rishi Sunak and 47 per cent think neither.

The figures reflect the hopelessness of our political class. Sunak can pretend that calling this election was part of a cunning plan, but the only plausible explanation for catching colleagues and his own party machine by surprise it is that he got wind that there were nearly enough Tory MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence in him and he went to the country to avoid this embarrassment. This is one of Rishi’s characteristics: just when he might be on the point of persuading you he’s a steady hand at the tiller, he draws back the curtain himself to show you it’s a con. The confused ‘not really but maybe compulsory’ National Service plans are a natural follow-up to the smoking ban for young people that nobody was talking about until he announced it last year. When the best one can say after 14 years in power is ‘the other lot are worse, vote for me’, you’re going to lose. Elections are primarily judgments on the government, not the opposition.

As a long-suffering Conservative activist, I’ve decided that the only sensible thing to do is act like an old-fashioned trade unionist and spend the next six weeks on a ‘work to rule’. My party membership prevents me campaigning against it but doesn’t oblige me to do anything for it. So while many of my colleagues will be plotting, planning and fretting, I will enjoy the next six weeks doing anything but politics. No leafleting, no canvassing, no late night at the election count, just being a normal person. Bliss.

The real battle starts when the next Labour government come to power on July 5. There are two rays of hope. First, they’ll be useless. Unlike Blair’s government, they’ll lack even the smidgen of competence that Gordon Brown, David Blunkett, Jack Straw et al were able to maintain for at least a few years. This coming Labour government will be more like the Wilson/Callaghan administration of the late 1970s, stumbling from crisis to crisis and waiting to be put out of its misery. Just as President Joe Biden has done wonders for Donald Trump’s re-election prospects, so Sir Keir Starmer will make the next Conservative Party leader’s path to No 10 so much easier than it might otherwise be.

The other hope is for a revival of conservative ideas. This has already been happening on a number of fronts, not only with TCW, but with myriad intellectual, media and campaigning bodies such as the Free Speech Union, the New Culture Forum, and Triggernometry. Jordan Peterson’s recent output has been more conservative and Christian than probably he would have imagined few years ago. We may witness a moment comparable to 1974, when the Conservatives, defeated and demoralised after the disaster of Edward Heath’s government, found their way forward. Sir Keith Joseph said he was ‘converted’ to Conservatism only in April 1974, and it was his founding of the Centre for Policy Studies that year which paved the way for the intellectual foundations of what was to become Thatcherism.

But now, just as in 1974, the prospect of having a Conservative Party with actual conservative ideas looks a long way off. The party leadership contest to come will be brutal. There is no knowing if – like Keith Joseph – they will experience a Damascene conversation and embrace their traditional core beliefs, not wasting one minute,  let alone 14 years, trying to be the ‘heir to Blair’.

One can worry about that later. The weather is starting to pick up, the diary is filling with outdoor events and Wimbledon starts on July 1. Don’t let politics spoil your summer.

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Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk
Vlod Barchuk is a former accountant, former Tory councillor and current chairman of Ealing Central and Acton Conservative Party Association.

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