Nick Timothy, a former Tory Party spin doctor, has published an article in the paywalled Daily Telegraph which deserves a closer look, as I announced here. As always, I make no apologies for quoting at length, starting with this astonishing confession:
“At the 2015 election, I helped to run the Conservative campaign that stopped Nigel Farage getting into Parliament. Four years on, I wonder if we made a terrible mistake.”
Savour this – it must be a first, this confession by a political expert, spin doctor and now pundit: a terrible mistake was made! I remember that GE very well indeed, and the way the Tories came out at the last minute with the terrifying warning that a vote for UKIP would mean a Miliband/Sturgeon socialist government … Now we get Ms May saying ‘vote for my WA or there will be a GE and Corbyn will get in’. Plus ça change …
“Back then, Farage forced the Tories to listen to millions of ignored voters. So they promised the Brexit referendum, and said they’d cut immigration. Now, without Farage breathing down their necks, they are breaking both promises.
Like many other Brexit supporters, Farage seemed to believe that the will of the people would be implemented by the Government and Parliament. But we were wrong.
With the Leave campaign disbanded, and its advocates scattered far and wide, the pressure dropped. Many MPs began to play a cynical game. First, they wanted Parliament to have a greater say. Then they wanted a softer Brexit, and then they wanted it softer still. They wanted a delay and, then, another. Many now support a second referendum, and the revocation of Article 50.”
Does that mean even Mr Timothy believed that the MPs and his Tory government would do as promised? We ‘believers’ are in good company, it seems. Next:
“The Remainers who claim that ill-informed Leavers were duped into voting for Brexit have themselves been unscrupulously dishonest. We respect the result, they said after the referendum and at the election, when they knew they did not.
Labour told their voters – a third of whom voted to leave the EU – they accepted Brexit. The Tories told their voters – two thirds of whom voted to leave – we would get out of the single market and customs union and “no deal is better than a bad deal”.”
The following sentences are even stronger:
“Due to the dishonesty and dishonour of this Parliament, and a negotiation in which Theresa May has rolled over time and again, we face the prospect of Brexit In Name Only – a customs union and close alignment with EU laws – or no Brexit at all.
But actions have consequences. And in the European elections the party system will be smashed.”
Frankly, I’ve not read such strong words by a Westminster insider since … I can’t remember! To continue:
“It will not be the kind of smash predicted and hoped for by liberal centrists on the BBC. It isn’t the Independent Group, or Change [sic] UK, who will bring about the change demanded by a frustrated public. Neither will the street demonstrations, obstruction and criminal damage of Extinction Rebellion. The smash will be brought about by the moderate masses who shocked the liberal centrists three years ago when they voted for Brexit. These people aren’t mouthy, they’re not rowdy, and they don’t turn up in London with banners and blimps. They’re not likely to prostrate themselves before a 16-year-old from Sweden prophesying the end of days. They are quiet, respectable, hard-working and patriotic people who want their politicians to do what they promised.”
That is as good and close an analysis as one would expect from a former spin doctor. It lends weight to the next remarks:
“They will ensure the Brexit Party finishes ahead of the Tories in the European elections, and possibly top the list. Just as the referendum demonstrated – and hastened – a trend in which working class voters were becoming more culturally conservative, so the European elections will illustrate how precarious the Tory position is.
And these are only the European elections. At the next general election, if the Conservatives have not delivered Brexit, and a Brexit that is meaningful to Leave voters, they will be smashed again. A senior Tory explains: “Stopping Brexit and stopping Corbyn is the Remainers’ version of having your cake and eating it: you can have one, but not the other.”
Hm. Of course, I’d like to ask what that ‘senior Tory’ and his colleagues are going to do about it. Curl up and whimper in the face of the May WA ‘Dragon’? Next, some questions which Tory MPs ought to ponder:
“The Tories cannot win unless they are the party that accepts, welcomes and delivers Brexit. But we should be honest that this will not be a bloodless act. Remainers have complained about the attempts to hold votes of no confidence in the likes of Grieve. But why should he be above scrutiny?
How would sticking with die hard Remainers help the Conservatives to unite and deliver their mandate? And what would more resistance from these rebels do for Conservatives like Eddie Hughes or Ben Bradley who represent Leave-supporting marginal constituencies? Showing good form to some MPs – despite their disloyalty – would mean death for others.
It is not only MPs. The Tories will lose some voters who supported them in the past but are ardent Remainers. They have the opportunity, however, to win over Leave voters who have never before voted Conservative.”
That is a good point, but I think that particular train has already left the station … The following paragraphs are important, especially for the leaders of those ‘new’ parties:
“According to polling by Lord Ashcroft, when voters are presented with choices between not only the Conservatives and Labour but a culturally liberal party and a culturally conservative party, more voters choose the two new parties than the old ones, and the cultural conservatives come first.”
Ah! And do note, if you click on the link, that this poll was undertaken last year, before the TIGs and indeed TBP sprang onto the scene. The following underlines the importance of this change in voter attitudes. It’s no longer ‘the economy, stupid’ – other issues have become more important:
“Other pollsters confirm that the salience of cultural issues is rising at the expense of the economy, which is driving a political realignment. With Brexit and immigration the defining issues at stake, the Tories have no future as a metro, liberal party. They have to become the champions of community and solidarity. In other words, the National Party.
Although libertarians and ultra-liberals recoil in horror at this prospect, it would mark a return to the party’s philosophical roots. Disraeli, who bemoaned Britain’s slide into two nations of rich and poor, passed laws to protect workers and improve working class housing. Neville Chamberlain, the party’s forgotten social reformer, improved pensions and social services and built millions of homes. He wanted to “get rid of that odious title Conservative” and have the party known by “a National name”.”
Mr Timothy of course doesn’t ask why the Tory Party has abandoned these philosophical roots. I can help him out there: as spin doctor he and others were chasing the elusive ‘swing voters’ and assumed that ‘going full Blair Mk II’ would be the winning solution. That was and is of course another grave mistake, perhaps a worse one than keeping Nigel Farage out. Finally:
“Personally, I don’t find the name “Conservative” odious at all. And of course I don’t really regret helping a Conservative MP to beat Farage in 2015. But his comeback, and his likely success in the European elections next month, serves a severe warning to the Tories. Make yourselves the National Party, or cease to be the governing party.”
But why should the two Parties which have so blatantly broken their promises to the voters be entitled to form the government of our country? Now that would be worthy of an analysis by spin doctors past and present.