IN A TIME of institutional crisis, it may be better to destroy than to rescue.
For Conservative voters around the country, the coming local authority and EU parliament elections are an opportunity to send a strong message to Theresa May and her chaotic government: you are no longer fit for purpose. But the Tories hope that the threat of a neo-Marxist Labour Party taking over will keep supporters on board. Meanwhile, two pro-Brexit parties are vying for a potential mass defection of 17.4 million Leave voters from the mainstream parties.
Of course, no Leaver should be fooled by Labour, which Emily Thornberry declared as a ‘party for Remain’. Another option is to simply stay away from the polls.
Many citizens, so exasperated with the refusal of politicians to act on a clear instruction from the electorate, say they won’t vote again. This is understandable but self-defeating – apathy is exactly what the political establishment wants. Instead, we must kick them in the ballot box.
Here, Politicalite contributor Niall McCrae considers the options for the frustrated majority from the EU referendum: who should they trust?
Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill would be spinning in their graves at the current state of the Conservative Party, which has wasted the greatest opportunity for national renewal in modern history. No longer conservative, its Brexit failure is not only due to incompetence, but a result of the modernising project of ‘Call me Dave’. Cameron’s A-list ended the aspirations of hard-working Tory councillors, overriding constituency selection for self-publicists such as Louise Mensch. Moreover, Sarah Wollaston, Nick Boles, Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah and Heidi Allen have shown their true colours since the referendum. They exploited the Tory electoral machine for their own gain, while treating their constituents with contempt.
For sure, there are many sound Tories on the back benches: Suella Braverman, Steve Baker, Mark Francois, Richard Drax, John Redwood, Priti Patel, Andrea Jenkyns, Steve Double, Peter Bone, Sherrill Murray and Bill Cash. But they are marginalised in the parliamentary party. As Theresa May drags the Tories deeper into the abyss, senior figures are setting out their stall as leadership successors. Yet they are all tainted. Why no cabinet resignations when the fixed date for leaving on 29th March was cancelled by a sleight of hand? As described by Redwood, ministers such as Barclay and Leadsom are no more than ‘alleged Brexiteers’.
Panicking about the looming disaster at in the local elections, Tories remind us that it is bin rounds we are voting on, not Brexit. James Cleverly, for example, compared road repairs between Labour and Conservative councils. Want Brexit, get a pot-hole graph. But the EU is important to councils (although not in the way that Remainers argue). Those billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money that continue to flow to the Brussels coffers could be spent on schools and social care. Sadly for their current and would-be councillors, the Tories are likely to get hammered on 2nd May, and many of their long-suffering supporters think they deserve it.
The party that forced the government into the EU referendum has never had much of a good press. ‘Fruitcakes and loons’, Cameron called its members, and the upstart has been ridiculed and vilified since it emerged as a major political force under Nigel Farage, mostly at the expense of the Tories. It always had a libertarian bent, seeking freedom from the EU and also our own ‘nanny state’, but it has offended the liberal-left for opposing mass immigration. Alert to the smears of racism and the ‘Marmite’ persona of Farage, the party kept a low profile in the EU referendum campaign. Electing a series of ineffectual leaders after Farage stepped down, its poll ratings and finances nosedived. UKIP reaped less than 2% in the 2017 general election, although that was partly due to lending of votes to the Tories, who promised ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
Caretaker leader Gerard Batten saved the party from its predicted demise. Listening to people’s concerns about Islamification and neglect of the provincial and lower-class communities that voted for Brexit, Batten turned UKIP from a party of disaffected shire Tories in tweed jackets to a grassroots movement. With Lord Pearson of Rannoch Moor he courageously advocated for the activist Tommy Robinson, an ‘enemy of the state’ who was summarily jailed for reporting on the widespread abuse of white schoolgirls by Muslim rape gangs. This was too much for Farage, who quit the party. ‘Far right’ is now the standard mainstream media prefix for UKIP, but Batten has stood his ground. In a memorable BBC interview he recited a hadith urging Muslims to kill Jews, as fellow guest Layla Moran, a progressive from central casting, was having kittens.
Following the Tories’ Brexit betrayal, UKIP has grown from a nadir of 18000 members to almost 30000, and in the latest Opinium poll it has reached 11%. In all likelihood it will do well in the local elections, particularly in areas where people have switched in recent years from Labour to Tories, only to find that May’s miserable managerialists are no better. As for the EU elections, its prospects are harder to predict; it will probably lose MEPs from its high point in 2014. But there is no doubt that UKIP is back.
Launched by Nigel Farage last week, the Brexit Party threatens to wipe out the Tories in the EU elections, should they happen (Dan Hannan could be the lone Conservative survivor in Brussels). This media-slick operation, closely linked to the Leave Means Leave campaign, promises household names as candidates (Piers Morgan? Julia Hartley-Brewer? Tim Martin?). Writing in the Sunday Express, Farage was keen to distance his new party from his old gang. UKIP, he claimed, has recruited a thuggish, criminal element, but the Brexit Party will be ‘intolerant of intolerance’ (that absurd mantra of our time).
The candidacy of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister, an upper-class Tory defector, is symbolic. Unlike UKIP, the Brexit Party doesn’t want coarse commoners. One problem is that prioritising a spotless profile over authenticity will fill the ranks with bland, politically-neutered types who are allowed to talk about Brexit but nothing else. Secondly, pandering to polite society could be futile: the most carefully screened and disciplined party will not deter Buzzfeed, the Guardian, Vice News and other cultural Marxist media from poring over the Facebook and Twitter histories of every candidate. This Scrutony (pardon the pun) will surely result in accusations of Islamophobia and immediate suspensions. In the face of hysterical left-wing witch-hunts, Farage will be timid where Batten is strong.
The writing is on the wall for the Tories. Patience among their loyal support has evaporated since the realisation that May’s promises were a deceit. UKIP will gain dozens of councillors, and it could take control of some Tory councils, while also gaining from Labour. This will be a fillip to the party going into the EU elections. How will the political and media establishment respond? Will they focus their bile on Farage’s Brexit Party, or UKIP? By attacking one, they will unwittingly help the other. The big surprise of the EU election could be that both parties prosper. And that could be the beginning of something much bigger – the reconstruction of British politics.