It is universally acknowledged that faced with a hard morning, and a difficult day, an Englishman reaches, not for his sidearm (they are banned here after all) but for a cup of builder’s tea so thick spoons stand perpendicular in it, and toast.
This morning, what England was eating was the governing Tory party. They are, as the saying goes, complete toast.
Overnight two electoral districts, one in the Midlands, Tamworth, where in 1834 Robert Peel delivered a Manifesto which created the modern Conservative party, and in Mid Bedfordshire in the leafy outskirts of London voted for Labour’s socialists.
Tamworth had, only 4 years ago given the Conservatives 66% of the vote, whereas in Mid Beds, as it is known, it was 59.8%. These seats are so bright blue that you strain your eyes if you look at them for too long.
The simple fact is if the Tories can lose these seats they can lose every seat they hold. It is the worst night of by-elections for them since records began. And there is no coming back from it. From now on, every single Conservative legislator will not be looking to retain his or her seat, instead they will be scouring the websites of Lobbying Companies and Trade Associations. With a generation of politicians grown up with little or no real life experience outside of beltway politics they are doomed. There just aren’t enough jobs for failed poil;iticians to go around.
Worse, they will find that it is very very cold out there. Those corpulent business leaders who would wine and dine them at the club, and stump up for the raffle or tombola for fundraising, will have discovered something, anything not to tackle their calls. There are of course some members who will survive the shipwreck, clinging to the Medusan raft, and others who do not deserve this plight individually. But the party is bust, broken, burnt, toast.
However there are some things that should pique those interested in the ebbs and flows of the British political tidal system. Though the Conservative vote collapsed, peering through the concrete dust two things are striking. In neither case did huge numbers swing to the victorious and socialist Labour Party. There is no real enthusiasm for them, and in other cases the difference between victory and defeat for the Conservatives was the new Reform Party.
The Reform Party, for which I consult, is the direct descendant of the Brexit Party that was born out of the ashes of the early UK Independence Party, both vehicles for Nigel Farage, Mr Brexit as he lead the campaign to regain the UK’s independence from the cold, technocratic hands of the European Union.
As a party, it committed an extravagant version of political seppuku, in order that his and its dream of a self governing post EU Britain would survive, and gifted the Conservative Party a huge majority to, as the then Tory leader, Boris Johnson put it, ‘Get Brexit done,’ but they couldn't even do that.
What the Tories did manage to do with their vast House of Commons majority, was to ramp up the tax rate to its highest point since WWII. They imposed strict lockdowns creating a mental health crisis amongst our children and an economic one for our small and medium sized businesses. It appointed intersectional identitarians to police the media - someone finally suspended for clear pro-Palestinian bias Ofcom online safety director suspended over anti-Israel posts - BBC News. It has allowed what it describes itself as a ‘hurricane’ of migration to hit our shores - despite promising to take back control. It has refused to clear out old EU regulations hampering our industry, and is allowing the slow annexation of the UK’s sovereign territory of Northern Ireland by the EU. Not only that it is crippling the poorest households and the finest entrepreneurs with swinging regulations and extra costs to chase the chimera of Net Zero and has poured billions of pounds into the bloody quagmire of the Ukraine, while cutting the size and scope of our own armed forces. Why would anybody vote for them, except in extremis, because they are not the other lot
The success of Farage’s parties in the past was never electoral at a Westinster level (though it won European elections) but psychological or existential. What he was able to do over a 10 year period was not so much win seats, but make it clear to the Conservatives and to a certain extent Labour that they could not take what they thought were safe seats for granted.
Since 2019 he has taken a back seat, with successful businessman Richard Tice taking over the reins. Up until this point the impact of Reform UK as it is now called has been marginal. But last night the party claimed its first two scalps. Tice and Reform do not need to win seats to have an impact on British politics, they just need to make it impossible for other parties to feel comfortable.
Though the percentages were still small, the impact was great, and there will be serious soul searching amongst Tory strategists over the coming few weeks as to how to counter the threat from the centre right, when their own traditional support base has melted away. Final week campaign messaging from the Tories suggest that they are aware of the threat perhaps, but because they have jettisoned every single one of the policies that made them Conservatives, it is hard to see where they go from here.
The Tories are not just toast this morning. They are dry toast.
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