British Conservatives And The Youth Vote, Ctd.

YouGov vote by age chart - general election 2017

Through their arrogance and sheer incompetence, the Tories have turned an entire generation away from conservative politics. But the solution is not to go marching off to the socialist Left

It doesn’t have to be like this.

It doesn’t have to be the case that people under 30 years of age vote so overwhelmingly for the parties of the Left, predominantly the Labour Party, while the Conservatives manage to sweep up barely a fifth of the youth vote.

The Tories have shot themselves in the foot by failing to court the youth vote or even speak to their concerns, the result of unbridled arrogance and sheer political incompetence. But the situation is not irreversible, if the right action is taken quickly. Unfortunately, the Tories – hopeless keepers of the conservative flame – look set to learn all of the wrong lessons.

I discussed this on my election night live blog and then again in this separate piece, but since that time several other commentators have jumped into the fray with their own takes, and it’s worth seeing what they have to say.

Former cabinet minister (sacked by Theresa May in her Weakness Reshuffle) and Harlow MP Robert Halfon won a lot of plaudits before the election for being one of few Tories to understand the need to reach out once more to the aspirational working class, and again after the election for criticising the Tories’ lack of vision going into the campaign.

From the Guardian:

Robert Halfon, who lost his frontbench role as minister for skills on Tuesday, said the Conservative party was “on death row” and had failed to offer a positive vision to voters.

The Harlow MP was scathing about the election campaign in which the prime minister lost her Commons majority, saying the Tories did not have a message to rival Labour’s promise to stand up “for the many not the few”.

Writing in the Sun, he said: “The Conservative party is on death row. Unless we reform our values, our membership offering and our party infrastructure, we face defeat at the next election – and potentially years of opposition.

“If we don’t change it wouldn’t matter if we had Alexander the Great or the Archangel Gabriel as leader. We face the wilderness.”

In an attack aimed at the Tory hierarchy – and campaign guru Sir Lynton Crosby – Halfon said: “Our election campaign portrayed us as a party devoid of values. ‘Strong and stable’ is hardly a battle cry. I cannot remember a time in the campaign when the Conservatives attempted to explain what we are really about: the party of the ladder, of aspiration and of opportunity.

“We let ourselves be perceived primarily as the party of ‘austerity’, failing entirely to campaign on our record of a strong economy or strong employment.

“Virtually nothing was said on the NHS or schools or the caring professions that work within them. Instead we created fear among pensioners, and threatened to take away school meals, handing a gift to our opponents. Is it any wonder that the Conservatives did not get a majority?”

Yes and no. Halfon is absolutely right to criticise the Tory campaign for its lack of a positive vision of any kind, let alone a coherent, recognisably conservative vision. But the specific targets of Halfon’s ire are all wrong. To follow his advice, the Tories should have engaged in a race with the Labour Party to shower praise and money on an unreformed NHS, wittered on endlessly about public services and exacerbated Britain’s corrosive culture of universal benefits, where everyone becomes accustomed to receiving handouts from the state regardless of their wealth or individual circumstances (see free school meals, the winter fuel allowance, child benefit and so on).

At least the Cameron/Osborne government, ideologically woolly as it was, made a token strike against universal benefits culture with their child benefit cap. Robert Halfon now sees support for giving benefits to people who don’t need them as the price of political survival. If this is true then there may as well not be a Conservative Party at all, because the Labour socialists will have won the war.

Here’s Nicholas Mazzei, writing in Conservative Home:

“Yeah I did; he was gonna write off my student loan. Come on!”

These were the words of a 25-year-old voter who text me early this morning, who had always voted Conservative and, up until the campaign began 5 weeks ago, was anti-Corbyn.

If you want to understand why the youth vote surged for Corbyn, I want you to read that line and look at the offer the Conservatives have made to the youth of Britain from our own manifesto. From this 25-year old’s own words, “the Conservatives have done nothing to reach out to those under-35”.

Now while most us would agree that the promises of wiping out debts and free university education by Labour were dangerous, unaffordable policies, we need to remember that the youth of the UK have been lumped with endless debts, rising costs in homes and education, and lower potential of earnings.

Much like in the US election, where voters turned out for Trump’s pro-employment message, youth voters in the UK turned out for a party which actually addressed their concerns.

Again, the problem is accurately diagnosed. The suite of Conservative Party policies, such as they were, did very little to even acknowledge the concerns of young people in a cosmetic way, let alone meaningfully address them. The Tories had no plan to encourage the building of sufficient houses to tackle the housing crisis because the status quo works just fine for their older core vote, thankyouverymuch. They remain obstinately committed to the most stubbornly self-harming form of Brexit possible, for absolutely no good reason, when most young people are sceptical of Brexit altogether.

And as icing on the cake, Theresa May and her lacklustre team preached a parsimonious message of fiscal restraint as a regrettable necessity – willingly accepting Labour’s framing of the economic debate! – rather than even attempting to sing the virtues of freedom, liberty and a smaller state dedicated to helping people in real need rather than parcelling out insufficient morsels of assistance to everybody regardless of need.

Theresa May’s team seemingly forgot that people don’t become more conservative as they get older automatically or without some prompting, and that if the Tories continually screw somebody over through their formative years, young adulthood and early middle age then they won’t magically become Tory voters when they get their first grey hair. People become more conservative as they get older because historically, sensible government policy has allowed them to become greater and greater stakeholders in society, largely through property and equity ownership. Cut off millions of young people from this ladder to prosperity and security, and the conveyor belt which gradually moves people from political Left to Right as they age will come grinding to a halt. We see this in the YouGov poll. where the Tories now only overtake Labour among those aged over 50.

But while Mazzei effectively diagnoses the problem, his solutions also seem to involve lurching to the Left:

The UK has the highest average tuition fees in the world, second only to the USA (which is at around £5300 a year compared to £6,000 in the UK). We cannot lump all this debt on to young people. Education in general needs more investment and should be protected at all costs.

No. Why should somebody without a university degree subsidise the education (and future higher earning potential) of somebody who wants a free degree? While tuition fees at some American schools are horrendously expensive and poor value for money, UK fees are much cheaper, to the extent that they still often do not even cover the full cost of tuition. They are by no means outrageous, and those unwilling to make the investment in themselves are under no obligation to attend university. If anything, the presence of tuition fees clamps down on the number of pointless degrees in non-subjects being taken by students. Lower or remove tuition fees and we will likely see an explosion in gender studies and other pointless social justice-related pseudo-courses.

The unnamed government minister who spoke scathingly to the Telegraph about the Tory election campaign hits closer to the truth:

The Conservative Party has become “too shallow” and needs a “re-invigoration of political thought” that can draw young people to the party, a minister has said.

The MP warned that the Tory election campaign had relied on “poxy little slogans” to attract the youth vote and failed to counter Jeremy Corbyn’s offer of “free money” in the form of state-funded university tuition and other hand-outs.

The minister told The Telegraph: “You’ve got to persuade a new generation of people of what’s what. We never even tried, so Corbyn just came in and basically bribed people to vote for him with other people’s money that doesn’t even exist.”

[..] The minister said: “It’s all about political education and argument. The problem with the whole campaign is that it was about politics and politicians. “Everything is too shallow. Politicians have all got their experience but they lose if they forget to re-educate a new generation. You’ve got to persuade a new generation of people of what’s what.

“This is about political persuasion and think tanks and all that stuff.”

Another MP said the party had failed to properly engage younger votes on social media, where many users were instead targeted with videos attacking Mr Corbyn.

“Frankly the party has done very, very little to engage with young people,” he said. “We have made no real effort to garner support, even on social media, which is where everybody gets their news and views these days.

Yes, a thousand times yes. The case for conservatism has to keep being made for each new generation. The very presence of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party should have been a huge wake-up call to the Tories that defunct, failed ideologies do not simply slink away to die once they are exposed and defeated.

Margaret Thatcher’s government may have rescued Britain from 1970s decline, but this was before the living memory of half the electorate. Two generations have come since the Winter of Discontent, with many in the millennial generation probably unable to even explain what it was, or how the failed socialist post-war consensus brought Britain to the brink of irreversible decline.

Thus we now have a generation of young people who take relative material abundance, peace and security for granted rather than appreciating that capitalism is the source of our prosperity, not a drain on it. A pampered generation who simply don’t realise that British and Western values need to be cherished and defended (as the Second World War and Cold War taught older generations).

Ross Clark makes the same point in The Spectator:

The under 35s have never been exposed to the negative images of socialism that were familiar to older generations. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, to my age group socialism was inescapably associated with the failures of the Soviet bloc: it conjured images of queuing half a day for a cabbage, putting your name down on a long waiting list for the prize of a choking, belching Trabant – and of getting shot if you tried to escape. To my generation, capitalism was synonymous with freedom. But I am not sure that holds for a generation who see only large, tax-dodging corporations and bankers who wrecked the economy yet carried on skimming off vast bonuses.

Neither, when reading of Jeremy Corbyn’s renationalisation plans, do the under-35s have memories of nationalised industries in Britain in the 1970s. They don’t recall the three day week, the Winter of Discontent, dirty, late trains, or realise that the chaos on Southern Railway was once symptomatic of labour relations in huge swaths of nationalised industry. All they see are over-priced trains run by private companies which have ruthlessly exploited the private monopolies which they were granted in this, the most botched of the privatisations.

The Corbynite Left (and even Labour centrists) have been incredibly adept at presenting what are really regulatory failures or corrupt crony corporatism as failures of capitalism itself, which – as shown by the willingness of young people to vote for politicians like Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc Melenchon and Jeremy Corbyn – has led many young people to demand that we throw the baby out with the bathwater. They sit and angrily Tweet about the evils of capitalism using handheld computing devices that only capitalism made possible, and nobody in British conservative politics seemingly has the balls to point out the absurdity to them.

The anonymous government minister is absolutely right to point out that Conservatives have an existential duty to “persuade a new generation of people of what’s what”, that showering public services with endless money and taking back state control of industry would have already happened if repeated lessons from history did not show that this approach simply never works.

The minister is right too when he says “this is about political persuasion and think tanks and all that stuff”. Yes it is. But you won’t reach young people with think tanks and white papers, and it is becoming increasingly obvious that the toxic Tory brand will not persuade them of the merits of conservatism either. That’s why we need strong new independent grassroots organisations to emerge, to promote the idea of freedom, self-sufficiency and a smaller, better-targeted state as an inherently good thing in and of itself, rather than a regretful response to recession.

As I wrote the other day:

For reasons of branding and basic administrative competence, any future small-C conservative movement hoping to gain traction with young people must be distinct from the Conservative Party, free of that residual toxicity and free to criticise the Tory party in government and in opposition when it proposes policies which either betray core values or threaten the interests of young people. A British CPAC and Young Brits for Liberty-style organisation could nurture talent of its own, outside the corrupting, nepotistic influence of the Conservative Party hierarchy, and would greatly increase their collective clout by helping or withholding support from future Tory election campaigns and individual candidacies based on policy, not party loyalty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

[..] We need a strong external repository for conservative principle, capable of engaging with young people who have been continually taught that leftist progressivism = forward-thinking “compassion” while liberty, independence and self-sufficiency from government are evidence of greed and moral failure.

We particularly need to work closely with conservative organisations in the United States, which face a similar uphill struggle in overcoming a historic disinterest in the youth vote but which are now starting to have some success, generated in part by their opposition to the illiberal Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics sweeping American university campuses, with its disregard for freedom of speech and toxic obsession with the politics of victimhood.

We should be sharing best practice back and forth with American conservative organisations as to how to build strong redoubts for conservatism in overwhelmingly leftist places, so that conservatism isn’t washed away altogether. Frankly, British conservatism is in such a parlous state that we need their help. And then, once things have stabilised, we can look to reclaim some of the ground we have lost among young voters.

Skot Covert, Co-Chairman of the College Republican National Committee in the United States, offered this advice for a young conservative revival in the United States:

Due to an extended absence on the right’s part, winning the youth vote won’t be easy and it certainly won’t happen overnight.  However, when the GOP communicates our policy positions in culturally relevant terms in the right mediums, we see progress.  This means understanding how and where young voters communicate and having a discussion on the issues most important to them.

I believe it’s also critical to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to winning young voters.  My generation is diverse and vibrant.  We thrive on uniqueness and self-definition and instinctively reject the notion that we should “go with the flow”.  Crafting an effective youth outreach strategy must be developed around this understanding.

This is certainly true. People crave authenticity in a politician – somebody willing to speak extemporaneously and answer straight questions honestly without first running them through a focus group or a Comms Team. Young people especially, it seems, like an optimistic, forward-looking message rather than lashings of grim tidings delivered by a malfunctioning, cautious android like Theresa May. Who knew? That’s why young people preferred socialist firebrand Bernie Sanders to calculating, establishment Hillary Clinton. That’s why Americans elected Donald Trump as their next president.

But there is no reason why these qualities of openness and relatability cannot be vested in a politician who doesn’t hail from the hard left or the populist pseudo-right. There is no reason why a liberty-minded Conservative MP could not similarly enthuse young people with a message of individual liberty, economic freedom and the advantages (rather than the costs) of restraining the state.

Anoosh Chakelian explains in the New Statesman just how Jeremy Corbyn and Corbyn-supporting outside groups used this quality of authenticity to their advantage:

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign focused heavily on young people – a key manifesto pledge being to scrap tuition fees. His campaign style – rallies across the country, and fewer stage-managed speeches and press conferences than Theresa May – also appealed more to this demographic.

In addition, Labour had viral news on its side. As BuzzFeed reported, pro-Corbyn articles by “alt-left” sites were shared on an enormous scale on social media. I hear that nearly 25 per cent of UK Facebook users watched a Momentum video on the website in the penultimate week of campaigning. This is a particularly effective way of reaching young people, and inspiring them to vote – something the Tories weren’t as good at.

But who in the current Conservative Party hierarchy is remotely equipped for this task? Boris Johnson is probably the most charismatic of the senior Tories, but even he could never pack a large 2000-seat theatre for a political rally the way that Jeremy Corbyn can. And of course Boris Johnson is something of a charlatan, with sky-high negative ratings and absolutely no fixed political compass.

The cold hard truth is that the Tories don’t have anybody who can match Jeremy Corbyn for charisma right now – and how depressing that is. The best we can hope for is to give some of the better backbenchers (I keep banging on about Kwasi Kwarteng and James Cleverly) some ministerial experience to groom them for a few years down the road, but rather than looking to the future, Theresa May seems to have decided to keep her cabinet stuffed full of bland non-entities with her latest reshuffle. In her infinite wisdom.

That’s why we cannot rely on the Conservative Party to save conservatism from itself. The Tory party is corrupt, inbred, nepotistic, dysfunctional and ideologically bankrupt. Right now they are seriously considering skipping after Jeremy Corbyn on a fun political jaunt even further to the hard Left. Yes, somehow the Tories squandered the opportunity to use Corbyn’s rise to move the Overton Window of British politics further to the right, and instead are doing all they can to help him shift it to the left. These people are incompetent clowns who cannot be trusted to walk with scissors, let alone safeguard the ideology and worldview which we depend on to keep us prosperous and free.

We need outside groups to pick up the burden so shamefully dropped by Theresa May and her dysfunctional party. Student organisations, business organisations, bloggers, the works. The Tory Party as it currently stands will never persuade any more young people to vote Conservative. We need outside organisations with legitimacy and untainted reputations to make the positive case for conservative, pro-market values, and then pressure the Tories to hold the line rather than fight every battle on Labour’s terms.

I repeat: do not look to the Conservative Party to successfully engineer an improvement in the youth vote. The Tories are not going to make things any easier for themselves when it comes to youth outreach, and given the level of competence exhibited by CCHQ they have the potential to make things a whole lot worse.

We few young small-C conservatives need to pick up the slack ourselves.

 

Jeremy Corbyn - youth vote - t shirt

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Labour Centrists Bend The Knee To Jeremy Corbyn, Once Again

Yvette Cooper

No courage, no backbone, no vision of their own

Telegraph sketchwriter Michael Deacon reports on the rapturous reception given to Jeremy Corbyn by the Parliamentary Labour Party when he entered the Commons yesterday:

Labour MPs cheered Jeremy Corbyn.

Genuinely. They really did. And when I say Labour MPs, I don’t just mean John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and the other members of his little band of loyalists. I mean all of them. As Mr Corbyn entered the Commons for the first time since the election, his MPs rose as one and awarded their leader a delirious standing ovation. Yes, the same MPs – well, apart from the 47 new ones – who not so long ago sat in scowling silence while Mr Corbyn floundered at PMQs, and voted by four to one that he must stand down.

On and on they clapped and whooped. Beaming from ear to ear, like a Wimbledon champion greeting his adoring public, Mr Corbyn waved, shook hands, did the thumbs-up, and basked in the acclaim. On the opposite side of the House, Tory MPs – including Theresa May – stared glumly.

What a sight it was. If this is how Labour celebrate losing an election, imagine what they’d do if they actually won.

Well, well, well.

It’s almost as though I wrote something warning about the spineless Labour centrists and their yawning lack of principle a year ago, after Jeremy Corbyn saw off their pathetic, ineptly executed leadership challenge. Oh wait, I did. Twice.

And just as they did when Corbyn vanquished the hapless Owen Smith, now the Labour centrists are prostrating themselves at their leader’s feet because his big government manifesto managed to bribe sufficient voters to win Labour a handful of additional seats, if not the general election. They are jostling for position, eager to worm their way back into the the Shadow Cabinet – which many of them previously deserted or refused to join, in an effort to destabilise Corbyn – because they taste the tantalising prospect of toppling Theresa May’s government, forcing another election and creeping across the finish line as part of some “progressive alliance”.

Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Owen Smith – all of the usual suspects quickly dropped their plans to revolt against Jeremy Corbyn after what they anticipated to be an electoral wipeout, and instead took to the airwaves to praise their leader and lay the groundwork for what they clearly hope is a return to power and prominence.

Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left worldview will destroy the Labour Party, we were once told. But more than that, his policies are wrong! So said the sanctimonious Labour centrists, despite failing to clearly articulate their own centrist vision for Britain or clearly explain which parts of the Thatcherite revolution they want to keep, which ones they want to reject and which ones they simply want to pretend to oppose in order to project the right image to their base. And now they come crawling back, ready and eager to serve, all previous ideological and moral objections to Corbyn having been conveniently compartmentalised and forgotten.

The Labour centrists have no courage and no backbone. This is Jeremy Corbyn’s party now, not theirs. Labour’s 40% vote share was driven by Corbyn, not by any of the B-lister centrists who can barely inspire their own family members to the polls. If the centrists meant what they said when they wept at Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader, resigned from his Shadow Cabinet in a huff or explicitly repudiated his leadership on the campaign doorstep, they would break away and found a new party of the centre-left. But they won’t. The prospect of power – even hard left power which not so long ago they found utterly objectionable – is simply too alluring.

This blog will make time to hear a multiplicity of political perspectives, but I have no time for people who cannot manage basic ideological consistency. And I have no time for oleaginous political swamp creatures who stab their leader in the back one day only to lay garlands of flowers at his feet the next.

Such degeneracy can be rivalled only by the rootless Conservative Party, who seem to have concluded – God help us – that the best way to bounce back from Theresa May’s disastrous election campaign is to race the Labour Party in a sprint to the political Left.

 

UPDATE – 14 June

Lobbyist and former Labour MP Tom Harris concurs with my assessment, and lays into the Labour centrists – particularly the so-called “big beasts”:

They were the epitome of principled opposition to a philosophy that, although alien to Labour Party traditions, was, for the time being, in control of it. They would not overtly oppose Corbyn (out of respect for his mandate, naturally), but neither would they be complicit.

Until now. Because it turns out – and who could possibly have predicted this? – that their “opposition” was not founded on principle at all. At least, not the principle we all thought.

Jeremy Corbyn stood in silence to honour IRA terrorists. He said that the homophobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic terrorists of Hamas, when they weren’t chucking trade unionists off the top of tall buildings in Gaza, were “dedicated towards… bringing about peace and social justice.”

He called for Nato to be disbanded. But it turns out that the “big beasts” had no problem with any of this, oh no – shame on you for thinking that!

Their only concern – and, to be fair, it was one that was shared by many of us – was that Corbyn just wouldn’t have an electoral appeal that would be great enough to warrant their participation on his front bench.

These are important people, after all, whose time is more precious than everyone else’s – they can’t be expected to spend their days asking parliamentary questions and leading opposition debates unless there’s the serious prospect of ministerial office at the end of it.

And now there is. After last week, there is the every chance that Jeremy Corbyn will be Prime Minister of this country, conceivably by the end of the year.

Before that earth-shattering exit poll was published at 10.00 pm last Thursday, at least a couple of those “big beasts” had already sought the support of their colleagues in anticipation of a return to the front bench, not as Shadow something or other, but as Leader of the Opposition. Labour’s 40 per cent of the vote changed all that.

Now, those of us with less political abilities and intellect than the “big beasts” might take a cautious step backwards at this point. In our naïveté we might fear that extremists who prove themselves popular are even more dangerous than extremists who are unpopular. But we would be wrong to think so.

With the sudden realisation that, contrary to expectation and logic, there are no votes to be lost in anti-Semitism or in friendship towards terrorists, the “big beasts” have made it clear that they are willing, after all, to get with the programme.

Some sore losers might harbour the hope that Corbyn will tell them to sod off and that he’s doing just fine without them, thank you very much.

But whether they return to their (as they see it) rightful place at the heart of Labour’s front bench, or whether they continue to sulk (with principle, of course) on the back benches, the term “big beast” will always be preceded by the descriptive “so called”, and will always be used with inverted commas, in order to indicate irony.

Principle has no place in British politics anymore, at least as far as the political/media elite are concerned. Pragmatism is king. And if your route back to power and influence means executing a deft 180-degree turn on supposedly inviolable principles, so be it. This is the rotten core of the Labour Party’s centrist wing.

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn speech

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General Election 2017: Conservatives Cannot Give Up On The Youth Vote

Jeremy Corbyn - Youth vote

British conservatives can no longer afford to cede the youth vote to the parties of the Left without putting up a fight for their hearts and minds

One thing seems absolutely crystal clear to me: the Conservative Party can no longer allow itself to glibly write off almost the entire youth vote and cede youth politics to the various parties of the left.

In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn seems like a most implausible politician to court the youth vote – an old, grey haired career politician with absolutely zero interest in doing anything fashionable, sartorially or politically. But my god, he is an authentic conviction politician. And if your average voter hates overgroomed, telegenic bland politico-bots then young people clearly hate them even more. Canned soundbites don’t work on social media-savvy young people, if they work on anyone. And yet the Conservatives went into battle – largely thanks to the “genius” Lynton Crosby – with an arsenal made up almost exclusively of glib, canned soundbites in place of anything remotely authentic.

Not that authenticity alone is enough. Right wing politics are clearly hugely toxic to many young people, who would sooner die than consider voting Conservative, let alone admitting any conservative leanings to their social circle. The Tories are too closely associated with grey, uninspiring “austerity”, even though austerity is largely a myth. The Tory brand, fair or unfair, is still toxic to many people. And the parties of the left have perfectly tapped into the consumerist politics of Me Me Me by promising to firehose endless sums of money into the gaping, insatiable mouth of Britain’s public services.

It seems painfully apparent to me that we need a prominent, national vessel for the development and promotion conservative policies (and personalities) separate from the Conservative Party, which simply can no longer be trusted to make the case for its own worldview. I wrote ages ago, back in 2015, that we need a British CPAC – a well funded and media savvy conservative campaign group which exists outside the dusty, dysfunctional Tories.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States, and while it has had its share of controversies it serves an important role in nurturing small-C conservative talent, seeding new ideas and generally providing an opportunity for advancement and self-promotion outside the structures of the Republican Party. It also plays a role in youth outreach, as do other organisations like Ron Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty.

The seeds of such a movement already exist – there is the excellent Conservatives for Liberty group, for which I am proud to have written numerous times. But for all the good work they do, they remain associated directly with the Tory brand and are too easily sidelined when a rabid anti-Thatcherite like Theresa May seizes control of the party and tries to drag it to the statist centre-left. Meanwhile, other think tanks which sometimes do good work (and sometimes not so good) – the Adam Smith Institute, the IEA, the Centre for Policy Studies – are very much of the political elite and by the political elite. They have neither the makings of a mass movement, nor the inclination to become one – and quite rightly, for this is not their speciality.

Worse still, the Conservative Party’s own efforts to build a youth wing tend to attract the kind of tweed-wearing teens and twenty-somethings who only further the perception of the party as being for posh, wealthy and generally insufferable types. Conservative Future, their most recent attempt, seemed to operate like a kind of pyramid scheme with promises of future candidacies dangled in front of naive young activists, and was rife with a bullying culture which led to the group’s closure.

No. For reasons of branding and basic administrative competence, any future small-C conservative movement hoping to gain traction with young people must be distinct from the Conservative Party, free of that residual toxicity and free to criticise the Tory party in government and in opposition when it proposes policies which either betray core values or threaten the interests of young people. A British CPAC and Young Brits for Liberty-style organisation could nurture talent of its own, outside the corrupting, nepotistic influence of the Conservative Party hierarchy, and would greatly increase their collective clout by helping or withholding support from future Tory election campaigns and individual candidacies based on policy, not party loyalty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

Look at the people who might be considered contenders to take over from Theresa May when she is rightly consigned to the dustbin of conservative political history. Do you see the youth vote ever breaking in significant numbers for Philip Hammond or Michael Fallon? David Davis or Michael Gove? Maybe Boris Johnson might win a few, but he is widely hated by starry-eyed young Europhiles for supposedly “taking away their future”.

No, the future Conservative leader who stands even a chance of fighting the parties of the left for the youth vote must come up from outside the existing party structure, if they are to emerge at all. They must articulate a message of conservatism as being pro-freedom, pro-opportunity, pro-dynamism. Some compromises must be made, with the party finally addressing issues which screw the younger generation and force them into the waiting arms of the Labour Party – a serious housebuilding programme (not council houses, but houses for private sale and rent) for example. The end of universal benefits being lavished upon rich, self-entitled pensioners who don’t need them.

The Tories need a leader who can make self-sufficiency and freedom seem cool rather than callous, admirable rather than shameful, particularly to younger voters. I don’t see anybody on the Conservative front bench who stands a chance of doing that. Maybe James Cleverly or Kwasi Kwarteng from the backbenches, if they were to step up and gain some ministerial experience? Priti Patel?

Regardless, one thing is clear: the Tories can no longer be relied upon to keep the torch of conservatism lit by themselves. Theresa May half extinguished it with her statist left-wing manifesto, half stolen from the Labour Party, and her inept campaigning and toxicity among young people provided the final coup-de-grace.

We need a strong external repository for conservative principle, capable of engaging with young people who have been continually taught that leftist progressivism = forward-thinking “compassion” while liberty, independence and self-sufficiency from government are evidence of greed and moral failure.

Theresa May’s Conservative Party shamefully surrendered the youth vote without so much as trying to win them over. The broader British conservative movement must learn from this dismal failure and ensure that it is never repeated.

 

Rand Paul - CPAC

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General Election 2017: Results & Analysis Live Blog

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Live Blog: General Election 2017 Results & Analysis

Polls Close: 10PM UK Time

Contact: semipartisansam@gmail.com

 

9 June – 05:15

INTERMISSION

My brain has temporarily ceased to function, so I am going to get a few hours’ sleep. I’ll resume when Theresa May emerges to make her walk of shame plea for forgiveness “victory” speech, and continue live blogging throughout the day. Thanks for joining, and stay tuned!

9 June – 04:48

The state of play

The Tories no longer expect to outperform the exit poll, which is quite bleakly funny considering how they were all pouring scorn on the poll’s dismal prediction just a few hours ago:

This has just been an unmitigated disaster for the Conservatives. But it is a disaster which Theresa May fully owns. It was her arrogance which prompted this general election – called with almost no consultation with cabinet members or MPs. It was her aloofness which saw the publication of an atrocious Tory manifesto which plagiarised freely from leftist Labour Party doctrine, discarding Thatcherism and embracing a larger role for the state in every aspect of our lives. It was her sheer ineptitude which led to such an awfully prosecuted campaign.

But more than all of that, it was Theresa May’s absolutely stunning lack of a positive, vision for Britain which led to this dire electoral performance.

Theresa May has defaced her own party, both ideologically and in terms of the MPs who have lost their seats. Ministers have lost their seats. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary – the Home Secretary! – squeaked through in Hastings with a majority of just 346, on the third recount. This is an humiliation.

But none of this should detract from the job that Jeremy Corbyn did guiding his party to near level pegging with the Tories in terms of national vote share, increasing Labour’s number of seats by more than thirty and consolidating his position as party leader. Remarkably, one can watch the news networks recalibrating their expectations of Corbyn in real time as the morning wears on. Whereas 24 hours ago nearly everybody expected Corbyn to lead the Labour Party to glorious defeat, now the talking heads are suggesting that he should be booted from the leadership for failing to win an eminently “winnable” election. What nonsense. Like him or loathe him, Jeremy Corbyn’s brand of conviction politics found traction.

Even formerly antagonistic centrist MPs are now forming an orderly queue to bend the knee to their emboldened leader:

On the BBC Chuka Umunna has just said he would consider serving in the shadow cabinet (or cabinet?) if offered a job by Jeremy Corbyn. Umunna, who was shadow business secretary under Ed Miliband, is on the opposite wing of the party to Corbyn, and has not been a vocal supporter of his.

But all night Labour figures previously sceptical about Corbyn have been lining up in the broadcast studios to pay tribute to him. And they have done it quite sincerely even if, in some cases, perhaps reluctantly. Corbyn’s achievement really has been striking.

On the plus side for those of us who supported Flexcit and a phased withdrawal from the European Union with continued transitional access to the EEA, the kneecapping of the Tories makes a more reasoned form of Brexit somewhat more likely. It may enrage those absolutists who have convinced themselves that sovereignty = reverting to WTO rules, consequences be damned, but it would be the right thing to do. Quite why Theresa May staked her “Brexit means Brexit” position on such extreme ground is mystifying – it certainly did nothing to endear her to Conservative Remainers, many of whom seem to have deserted the party in key constituencies.

While the final breakdown of the new parliament – and the composition of then next government – remains to be seen, this much we know: Theresa May is a zombie prime minister. ITV News reports that she is currently huddled with her closest advisers (still excluding ministers and the wider party from her deliberation processes, even now) and writing a speech, while it remains 50/50 as to whether she will announce her departure or not. We will know soon enough.

But as things stand, the prime minister’s arrogance and incompetence have grievously harmed the Conservative Party and plunged Britain into chaos at the worst possible time. This is an appalling legacy.

9 June – 04:15

Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian live blog reports that John McDonnell is stirring up some mischief:

In his victory speech at his count John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said he expected Boris Johnson to launch a leadership challenge immediately.

To be fair, he probably won’t need much encouragement.

9 June – 03:54

One of the things I love about British parliamentary elections is the fact that all candidates, from the most powerful minister to the lowliest of fringe or independent candidates, have to stand next to each other on the stage as their results are read out by the constituency returning officer.

And what humiliation could be more appropriate for Theresa May than having to share a stage with Elmo and “Lord Buckethead”?

Buckethead for prime minister!

Theresa May - election count - Lord Buckethead

9 June – 03:41

Whatever Theresa May says about her future, her cabinet ministers clearly have some forceful ideas of their own.

James Forsyth in the Spectator live blog:

So, what happens to Theresa May? Her gamble in calling an early election has backfired on her spectacularly. Her authority is now shot, even if she can find a way to stay in Number 10.

But will her party remove her? Some ministers are clearly keen to, there has been chatter about possible unity tickets and the like. However, some senior Tories think that the ‘national interest’ and the proximity of the start of the Brexit negotiations means that May should be allowed to carry on as PM, but with a whole new approach to government.

I am told ‘Do not underestimate the fury in the parliamentary party. They are absolutely spitting’. Certainly, the Tories will be reluctant to go into any second election with her as leader.

I don’t see how she stays. She betrayed conservatism with one of the worst Tory manifestos in recent decades. Her leadership style is exclusionary and reliant on a small cadre of advisers who have now been conspicuously shown to be utterly useless. She is a wooden campaigner with zero charisma in an age when the public are clearly crying out for some kind of inspirational politics. And now she has been humiliated, her authority utterly blasted away.

Do we want a puppet prime minister, reliant on the forebearance of other powerful cabinet members who pull the strings in the background? Surely not. There is no way that May can now stand alongside Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or Donald Trump and project authority. Rather another unelected prime minister with charisma than the shredded remnants of the May premiership.

9 June – 03:28

Theresa May in denial

And now we have Theresa May’s speech at her count in Maidenhead. One might have expected a degree of contrition for squandering a huge lead in the polls and leading her party off the cliff. But no – the prime minister breathed defiance, insisting that the country needed “stability” (which of course she provides in such copious amounts) and that she would therefore plan to remain in 10 Downing Street if the votes come in as expected:

As we look ahead and wait to see what the final results will be, I know that the country needs a period of stability. And whatever the results are the Conservative party will ensure that we fulfil our duty in ensuring that stability so that we can all, as one country, go forward together.

Notably, though, Theresa May didn’t use the word “I” when saying that the Tories would plan to remain in government. Her conspicuous use of the words “we” and “the Conservative Party” suggest that she realises deep down that her hours in Downing Street are now extremely numbered.

9 June – 03:22

For whom the bell tolls

Jeremy Corbyn used his victory speech at his count in Islington to push our malfunctioning prime minister, already teetering on the brink, over the edge.

Corbyn said:

“The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go actually.”

Corbyn and nearly every Conservative MP, activist and supporter. She has led the party to abject, ignominious defeat. RESIGN.

9 June – 03:14

The people have spoken. But what did we say?

A common platitude uttered by winning and losing politicians in the United States is to declare that “the American people have spoken”. It’s supposed to indicate that politicians should gracefully accept the verdict and allow the victor to have a chance to enact their agenda.

But if the British people have spoken, what on earth did they say?

Apparently we punished the Tories for their awful campaign and wooden, inept leader. Except in Scotland, where the Tories are picking up seats and may make the difference between the Tories remaining in government or moving across to the opposition benches.

Apparently we voted against Theresa May’s vision of “hard Brexit” with the possibility of crashing out of the EU with no deal. Except key architects of the establishment Brexit campaign like Boris Johnson were returned to parliament, while Jeremy Corbyn – who was ambivalent about EU membership at best, and who made only lacklustre efforts to help the Remain campaign – is set to be the night’s biggest winner.

Apparently we are rewarding politicians with principle and political courage like Jeremy Corbyn. Except politicians who made difficult decisions in the national interest, like Nick Clegg, have been cruelly punished.

The British people showed us by their treatment of the Liberal Democrats in 2015 that they dislike coalitions (or at least that they will ruthlessly punish any minority party to enter into coalition with the Tories) and yet we look set to return a split of MPs which almost cries out for some kind of coalition or intra-party cooperation.

In short, there is no clear message, either in terms of the individual winners or losers, or the likely composition of the next parliament. We apparently shouted very loudly, but it is far from clear what we actually said – and it is almost certain that half of us will be squealing with self-righteous outrage when the next government (in whatever shape) is formed.

9 June – 02:35

What’s happening in Scotland?

The story in Scotland seems entirely different to what has been happening south of the border. The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, has lost his seat, while the Tories are picking up seats in Scotland – one of the only forecasts that actually seems to be coming true for them.

Given the Tories’ astonishing weakness across swathes of England, it could be that various gains in Scotland (of all places) are the only thing which keeps them afloat with a chance of remaining in government.

9 June – 02:23

Corbyn triumphant

Jeremy Corbyn looks triumphant as he arrives at his Islington count to huge roars of approval and a prolonged ovation from local party activists. This is just surreal. This blog has always been mindful of Jeremy Corbyn’s authenticity and the danger that his conviction politics posed when the conservative opposition was so rootless and bland, but I still didn’t envisage an outcome where Labour was in celebratory mode on election night, with at least an outside chance of taking 10 Downing Street.

Tom Watson gave quite a punchy victory speech, in which he skewered Theresa May by her own logic:

We still don’t know what the final result of this election is. It is too early to say. But it looks likely to be a very bad result for Theresa May.

She said: “It is a fact that if we lose just six seats, we will lose our majority and Jeremy Corbyn will become prime minister”. We do not yet know the final result, but we intend to hold her to that …

The next few hours – maybe the next few days – look very uncertain. But one thing we can be sure of is that Theresa May’s authority has evaporated. She is a damaged Prime Minister whose reputation may never recover.

One thing is for certain: people want hope. And when they’re offered it, they vote for it.

Theresa May can’t possibly remain as PM. She has strengthened Corbyn and given hard-left 1970s socialism a foothold back in our politics – an unforgivable crime.

9 June – 02:00

We need to talk about the youth vote

One thing seems absolutely crystal clear to me: the Conservative Party can no longer allow itself to glibly write off almost the entire youth vote and cede youth politics to the various parties of the left.

In some ways, Jeremy Corbyn seemed like a most implausible politician to court the youth vote – an old, grey haired career politician with absolutely zero interest in doing anything fashionable, sartorially or politically. But my god, he is an authentic conviction politician. And if your average voter hates overgroomed, telegenic bland politico-bots then young people clearly hate them even more. Canned soundbites don’t work on social media-savvy young people, if they work on anyone. And yet the Conservatives went into battle – largely thanks to the “genius” Lynton Crosby – with an arsenal made up almost exclusively of glib, canned soundbites in place of anything remotely authentic.

Not that authenticity alone is enough. Right wing politics are clearly hugely toxic to many young people, who would sooner die than admit to voting Conservative. The Tories are too closely associated with grey, uninspiring “austerity”, even though austerity is largely a myth. The Tory brand, fair or unfair, is still toxic to many people. And the parties of the left have perfectly tapped into the consumerist politics of Me Me Me by promising to firehose endless sums of money into the gaping, insatiable mouth of Britain’s public services.

It seems painfully apparent to me that we need a prominent, national vessel for the development and promotion conservative policies (and personalities) separate from the Conservative Party, which simply cannot be trusted to make the case for its own worldview. I wrote ages ago, back in 2015, that we need a British CPAC – a well funded and media savvy conservative campaign group which exists outside the dusty, dysfunctional Tories.

CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference in the United States, and while it has had its share of controversies it serves an important role in nurturing small-C conservative talent, seeding new ideas and generally providing an opportunity for advancement and self-promotion outside the structures of the Republican Party. It also plays a role in youth outreach, as do other organisations like Ron Paul’s Young Americans for Liberty.

It is only through outside groups like this that the image of conservatism stands a chance of being rehabilitated among young people. It is only through a British version of CPAC or YAF that young conservative or agnostic students at university stand a chance against being steamrollered by the fashionable left-wing identity politics which are almost de rigeur for social acceptance and advancement.

Look at the people who might be considered contenders to take over from Theresa May when she is rightly consigned to the dustbin of conservative political history. Do you see the youth vote ever breaking in significant numbers for Philip Hammond or Michael Fallon? Maybe Boris Johnson might win a few, but he is widely hated by starry-eyed young Europhiles for “taking away their future”.

No, the future Conservative leader who stands even a chance of fighting the parties of the left for the youth vote must come up from outside the existing party structure, if they are to emerge at all. They must articulate a message of conservatism as being pro-freedom, pro-opportunity, pro-dynamism. Some compromises must be made, with the party finally addressing issues which screw the younger generation and force them into the waiting arms of the Labour Party – a serious housebuilding programme (not council houses, but houses for private sale and rent) for example. The end of universal benefits being lavished upon rich, self-entitled pensioners who don’t need them.

The Tories need a leader who can make self-sufficiency and freedom seem cool rather than callous, admirable rather than shameful, particularly to younger voters. I don’t see anybody on the Conservative front bench who stands a chance of doing that. Maybe James Cleverly from the backbenches, if he was able to step up?

But one thing is clear: the Tories can no longer be relied upon to keep the torch of conservatism lit. Theresa May half extinguished it with her statist manifesto, half stolen from the Labour Party, and her inept campaigning and toxicity among young people provided the coup-de-grace.

We need an external repository for conservative principle, now.

9 June – 01:29

The men in grey suits prepare to make their move:

9 June – 01:24

Jeremy Corbyn emerges

This sounds suspiciously like a tentative victory speech:

I’d like to thank all our members and supporters who have worked so hard on this campaign, from door knocking to social media, and to everyone who voted for a manifesto which offers real change for our country. Whatever the final result, we have already changed the face of British politics.

Regardless of what happens with the formation of the next government, all of those restive Labour shadow cabinet members and backbenchers are now going to have to bend the knee:

9 June – 01:20

Credit to Jeremy Corbyn, ctd.

Peter Hain now on the BBC giving credit to Jeremy Corbyn, much as this blog has done, for having fought a passionate and principled campaign which actually generated grassroots enthusiasm rather than making people cringe (like Theresa May’s Conservative campaign).

9 June – 01:06

A recipe for instability

Robert Peston is counting the days until the next general election, which he thinks will be sooner rather than later?

And who can disagree? Assuming a minority government of either stripe (or a majority Tory government with a miniscule majority, riven by infighting and beset by external shocks), it will be immensely vulnerable to no-confidence votes or having its budgets voted down at any time. Assuming a fractious Progressive Alliance, the restive Tories will have ample opportunity to destabilise such a government and try to quickly win back power.

Either way, Brenda from Bristol is likely to be pretty angry.

9 June – 00:59

What about the UKIP vote?

The received wisdom was that voters abandoning UKIP would flow back to the Conservatives, primarily because that’s where most of them came from in the first place, steadily abandoning the Tories in 2010 and 2015 until David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum stopped the bleeding.

Early results and the exit poll show this analysis to be wildly misjudged. From the Spectator:

The UKIP collapse in Broxbourne – where their vote is down 15.7% – has boosted Labour (10.5% gain) more than the Tories (6.1%). The constituency went two-thirds for Leave in the referendum.

This goes against the expectations of most pundits, myself included, who assumed that the UKIP vote would wash straight back to the Tories, where it came from. But instead of this reversion to normality, it seems that these voters have moved to the left while hanging out with UKIP, and have increasingly moved to the Labour Party instead. UKIP has essentially laundered a load of voters and turned them from wavering conservatives into tentative Corbynites – which is quite stunning really.

9 June – 00:49

More Conservative anger

The Telegraph’s live blog catalogues more of the bubbling fury at Tory HQ:

Theresa May is facing a mounting backlash over her “catastrophic” election campaign after an exit poll suggested that her snap election gamble had failed to pay off.

[..] Senior Conservatives said this morning that she had made “fundamental strategic errors” and said that her closest aides should be “banished” from Downing Street.

They complained that the campaign had been centred around a “cult of personality” and “central control”, adding: “It has completely blown up in our face”.

One senior Tory told The Telegraph: “This is bad, it’s worse than bad. Her advisers should walk out of the door now never to return, regardless of the final result.

Yep. Let’s not forget the role of the SpAdocracy in this calamity.

 

9 June – 00:37

Credit to Jeremy Corbyn, ctd.

Andrew Neil agrees with me. We shouldn’t let Theresa May’s magnificent, luminescent incompetence detract from the equally important story of Jeremy Corbyn’s shrewd, principled (yes – you don’t have to agree with the principles but you must acknowledge their existence) and dogged campaigning.

He worked hard for this result, battling a regicidal parliamentary party and a furiously oppositional media. Almost nobody saw it coming. Fair play.

9 June – 00:30

Signs from Ipswich that Ben Gummer, nepotism beneficiary extraordinaire, barely closeted Europhile and – most famously – architect of the Conservative Party’s dismal “Blue Labour” manifesto, is in danger of losing his seat. Good. Anybody who had any hand in Theresa May’s lurch toward the statist centre-left needs to die a lonely death in the political wilderness.

9 June – 00:14

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, has just predicted on BBC News that Labour will form the next government.

Who would have seriously suspected that she could even make such a speculative boast (with a straight face) this time 24 hours ago?

God help us all.

9 June – 00:05

Dissent among the Conservative cabinet is already bubbling to the surface.

James Forsyth reports:

Tory Cabinet Ministers are complaining that they unilaterally disarmed in this campaign. That just as Labour was offering young voters free tuition fees to fire up their youth base, the Tories were alarming their elderly base with the so-called ‘dementia tax’.

More:

Tory Cabinet Ministers are still in shock at the exit poll result. The mood is that even if May gets a majority of 12, her ‘authority will be shot’ and—at the very least—her governing style will have to change drastically. There is some very early talk of leadership options too. I am told that ‘the men in grey suits are livid’.

Oh, she’s gone. And this is only the start of what will be some of the bitterest post-election recriminations ever.

8 June – 23:55

Credit where credit is due to Jeremy Corbyn and Momentum

As much as the story of this general election may be Theresa May’s miraculous ability to snatch defeat (or something perilously close to it) from the jaws of victory, we should not forget that this remarkable turn of events is also a reflection of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party – in impossibly difficult circumstances, undermined by the Labour centrists and doubters at every turn.

The fact that Labour clearly have not collapsed as earlier polls suggested shows the continued importance of real world physical campaigning, having a candidate who actually inspires enthusiasm and draws crowds of people who want to hear him speak (rather than groups of sign-waving party activists bussed in from far afield) and who – shock horror – actually has core values and the courage to articulate them.

You can disagree with Jeremy Corbyn all you want – I certainly do. But the man has political courage. He stands by his loopy, outdated (and sometimes downright offensive) views and keeps on plugging away trying to sell them to the people. He spent years in the political wilderness as a result, until fortunes changed and his unlikely leadership bid caught fire back in 2015. He doesn’t bend, flatter and shapeshift in an attempt to get into the public’s good graces. He rarely compromises on his core beliefs – Brendan O’Neill made a valid critique that Corbyn abandoned his euroscepticism to vote for Remain, but his position as leader was directly at stake and he did everything he could to signal his insincerity to the electorate – and it seems that people actually respond quite well to that kind of consistency.

As much as Theresa May did everything humanly possible to throw this election away, we should not ignore the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has apparently massively outperformed the low expectations that many pundits set for him.

8 June – 23:33

A Brexit perspective

We need to look at things from the all-important perspective of Brexit, and what effect a hung parliament, progressive alliance government, weak Tory majority or minority government will have on Brexit negotiations.

From my perspective, this is potentially one significant silver lining in this cloud. Anything that forces a more realistic assessment of Britain’s need for a comprehensive Brexit deal (and avoiding a “no deal” cliff edge) is a good thing. Theresa May’s government showed no signs of acknowledging this basic reality, or awareness of the impact that crashing out of the EEA to WTO rules would actually have. For all their faults, the likes of Labour’s Keir Starmer do at least seem to be functionally aware of non-tariff barriers and the serious threat they pose to Britain if we do not exit the EU in a sensible, planned way. Anything that amplifies the voices of reason when it comes to securing a mutually beneficial Brexit deal is clearly a good thing.

Unfortunately, the slim ray of hope that this inconclusive election result might lead to a more intelligent form of Brexit is clouded by the fact that a weak Tory government or Progressive Alliance would wreak havoc with domestic policy, dramatically expand the state, throw fiscal rectitude out the window and potentially even seek to subvert Brexit altogether.

Pick your poison.

8 June – 23:24

George Osborne twists the knife

Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian live blog quotes ex-Chancellor and current Evening Standard editor George Osborne:

I worked very well with Theresa May and I think she has intelligence and integrity.

Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government then she I doubt will survive in the long term as Conservative party leader.

But you know we are all talking about a poll. So I’m nervous of making certain statements but look, the problem she will have if it’s anything like that number, she’s got Irish unionists … that does not get you necessarily to 326 and the Liberal Democrats on 14 here … are so unlikely to go into coalition with the Conservatives this time round, not least because they’ve made commitments to things like a second European referendum.

So I look at those numbers, I helped put together the Coalition in 2010 and you could make the numbers quite easily add up if you could get the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to come together. I look at these numbers, you can’t make them add up.

The best case scenario (assuming the margin of error falls entirely in her favour) has the Tories ending up with about the same number of seats they currently have. This would mean that they dragged the country through the hassle and disruption of a general election campaign only to effectively tread water.

Theresa May will have resigned by sundown tomorrow, and her departure from frontline Conservative politics cannot come soon enough.

8 June – 23:12

1945 all over again?

As my mind reels from the exit poll and the increasing likelihood that Theresa May has presided over a self-inflicted calamity of historic proportions, I keep thinking back to the post-war election of 1945. Churchill guided the country through the war and saved us from existential threat only for the Conservatives to lose the peace to Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, opening the doorway for the socialist post-war consensus.

Similarly, we prevailed in the battle for Brexit but look in serious jeopardy of losing the post-referendum peace to Jeremy Corbyn’s resurgent socialism. In 1945, this fateful choice led to 34 years of slow and painful national decline. We can only hope and prey that the ramifications of this election – whatever the final result may be – are not as painful or long-lasting.

8 June – 23:05

Still waiting for the shock to wear off while we wait for some contestable seat results to come in. Labour increased their majority in Newcastle Central, a safe seat. The Tories were never going to win, but if they can’t even make inroads…

8 June – 22:57

A couple of silver linings in this Force 5 tornado funnel cloud of doom: oleaginous pro-EU cheerleader Anna Soubry is forecast to lose her seat, as is the SNP’s Westminster leader Angus Robertson.

From the Spectator:

In what might be one of the biggest upsets of the night, the BBC forecasts that Angus Robertson, the SNP’s group leader in Westminster has a 99 per cent chance of losing his seat in Moray to the Conservatives.

8 June – 22:50

So if/when Theresa May falls on her sword (or is pushed into it), who on earth could take over? It’s hardly as though the Conservative front benches are brimming over with plausible heavyweight talent? Or rather, what heavyweight talent there is – Philip Hammond, Michael Fallon – tend to be as dour and uninspiring as she is. If Jeremy Corbyn can outmanoeuvre Theresa May then he can certainly do so to her grey haired male backing dancers.

So…Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? No.

Amber Rudd? Maybe, assuming she doesn’t lose her seat.

We need new blood to step up. James Cleverly? Kwasi Kwarteng? Priti Patel?

8 June – 22:40

The thing is, Theresa May has done nothing to ingratiate herself with the Conservative Parliamentary Party. Her leadership style has been closed and insular. As Home Secretary she nurtured feuds with other cabinet members, and as PM she has been unwilling to delegate and trust many of her cabinet colleagues with the kind of autonomy that a strong, confident leader might otherwise extend.

The upshot – almost nobody will leap to her defence when the long knives are drawn…

8 June – 22:33

Yes, Ruth Davidson would make an infinitely better UK Conservative leader (and prime minister) than Theresa May. Mind you, so would my left shoe…

8 June – 22:29

Dan Hodges is right. I can’t find the words to express my anger and contempt for Theresa May. The only possible excuse for her shameful jettisoning of core conservative small government principles was that it might be a clever way of triangulating and winning a whole additional tranche of centrist votes. Well, the exit poll suggests that it didn’t exactly work out very well. She betrayed conservative principles and her ineptitude has actually put Britain at risk of a Corbyn-led Labour government.

8 June – 22:24

Menzies Campbell on the BBC, talking down the prospect of LibDem participation in a progressive alliance, if the astonishing exit poll results are confirmed or exceeded from a left-wing perspective. I’m frankly stunned that we are even considering this dystopian possibility.

I think that if the numbers add up for them, the parties of the left have to go for it. Surely they do? Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens (and to a lesser extent the LibDems) have spent the past two years shrieking about how the Evil Tories are perpetuating a holocaust of the sick, disabled and generically “vulnerable”. Surely if the Evil Tor-ees are as evil as the parties of the left have continually implied, they have a solemn duty to club together to stop it, no matter what political damage it may do to them in the long term? Or will they leave the “vulnerable” to their fate with a minority Conservative administration?

8 June – 22:18

Calmer voices than mine are preaching caution:

8 June – 22:17

Already warning signs that Conservative MPs are imperilled and in danger of losing their seats. This is incredible. This tweet pretty much sums up the mood in the Hooper household right now:

 

8 June – 22:15

Putting my non-partisan hat on, this exit poll is enormously encouraging to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party. If it carries through to the results, it will show that there is indeed public demand for authentic politicians who actually have consistent principles and stand through them through good times and bad, popularity and unpopularity. It will show that there is tremendous public appetite for authenticity and conviction politics – all those things that we were so confidently told were old fashioned and passé.

8 June – 22:12

So the Conservatives are in denial, with senior sources telling Andrew Marr that it simply cannot be true. Theresa May had better bloody well hope so, otherwise she needs to be taken out back by the 1922 Committee and…politically disposed of.

8 June – 22:09

Whoever thought that the moments after the release of the exit poll would see John McDonnell frantically trying to tamp down expectations on the BBC election show. Wow. This is a disaster – *if* it carries through to actual results.

A hung parliament is the absolute last thing that Britain needs at this difficult time. Theresa May’s policies may be misguided in a myriad of ways, but the idea of a minority Conservative administration or a shaky left-wing coalition trying to implement domestic policy, respond to the twin terror attacks in London and Manchester *and* negotiate Brexit? Absolutely untenable.

8 June – 22:04

If – IF – this exit poll is correct, then Theresa May is a dead woman walking. She needs to go, almost immediately. I don’t care that we will be back to whiny lefties droning on about an “unelected prime minister”. Anything would be better than this walking catastrophe of a failed prime minister, a useless campaigner, a tone deaf speaker, a political coward and someone who tried to subvert the party’s best Thatcherite traditions (or what’s left of them) with her own brand of nasty authoritarianism.

This is absolutely unacceptable for the Tories, if carried through to actual results. Theresa May was facing off against Jeremy Corbyn. JEREMY FREAKING CORBYN! And she can’t muster a landslide against somebody who has spoken warmly of terrorist organisations and wants to implement hard left socialist policies consigned to the dustbin of history in 1979. What? No, this is ridiculous.

No. This is unacceptable. If this exit poll carries true, Theresa May needs to go. It doesn’t matter who replaces her. My left shoe could do a better job, and would sound better on the stump. Unacceptable.

8 June – 21:55

POLLS CLOSED – EXIT POLL RELEASED

Conservatives largest party

No overall majority predicted

Con 314, down 17 – my goodness me

266 Labour, up 34

SNP 34 – yeah, not buying that one

8 June – 21:55

Ready for the exit poll

Ten minutes before the exit poll was released for the 2015 general election, David Cameron was mentally rehearsing his concession speech while the messianic Ed Miliband was daring to hope that he might become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. We all know how that turned out.

In 2017, there are probably no such expectations within Labour high command that the party might be returned to power. When it comes to the horde of Labour-supporting youngsters and Momentum zealots, it is a different matter, of course – cocooned safely in their self-affirming left wing bubble, once again many of these left-wing activists are about to collide hard with reality.

It is almost unimaginable that the exit poll will show anything other than a projected result which sees Theresa May return to 10 Downing Street as prime minister. The real question is the majority of Conservative MPs she brings back to Parliament with her, and whether the Tories’ electoral performance can possibly be good enough to make up for the incompetent, error-strewn campaign presided over by May. She will need a very solid performance indeed, otherwise Conservative knives will begin to sharpen…

8 June – 20:55

A local update from Hampstead & Kilburn

We are now in that strange hinterland where the television news is legally required to frantically pretend that there is no general election taking place, so as not to influence the vote. As I took the opportunity to make dinner, once again I was interrupted by a Conservative Party canvasser, another enthusiastic young man sent to check that I had followed through on my pledge to vote Tory.

I reassured him that I had indeed voted Conservative (but spared him my anti-Theresa May diatribe) and we then spoke about the state of the race here in this ultra-marginal northwest London constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn.

Apparently it is very close indeed, and the campaign is uncertain which way it is going to break (though just how privy a canvasser would be to the latest campaign intelligence is disputable). I was told that the Tories are indeed picking up much of the ex-UKIP vote (UKIP are not running a candidate in the constituency this time) as expected, but that they are also haemorrhaging a number of votes to the Liberal Democrats, specifically angry pro-EU people who have not reconciled themselves to Brexit. And this despite the fact that local Tory candidate Claire-Louise Leyland was an ardent Remainer and campaigned for Stronger In (though she now supports the prime minister’s agenda).

This seems to be in line with my earlier analysis of the state of the race here in Hampstead & Kilburn. With the polls indicating that the Tories should pick up seats nationally, the specific dynamics of the local race in this strongly pro-EU constituency may mean that Tulip Siddiq is able to hang on to the seat for Labour in the face of a strong Conservative headwind.

The Tory canvasser also had a very dim opinion of Theresa May’s leadership and campaigning ability. Almost unprompted by me, he said “oh my god, she’s terrible, isn’t she?!”. Quite. He also thought that a majority of 60 or 70 would be “amazing”, suggesting that expectations have been lowered inside the party as well as to the media.

One thing is certain, though – if the ground troops are openly questioning the leadership of their general on the doorstep then Theresa May should be very worried about her long-term position unless she pulls off a very strong performance tonight.

8 June – 19:40

The conspiracy-minded fringe is now on the Left

Fringe conspiracy theories have typically been associated with the political Right – one thinks of figures such as Alex Jones, David Icke and so on. But increasingly we are seeing paranoid conspiracy theorising emanating from a segment of the political Left which simply cannot understand why its brand of shrill, hectoring, illiberal, identity politics-soaked campaigning is not more popular with the electorate.

One thing is for sure – when the exit poll is released and when the final vote is tallied in the last constituency to report, there will be a stubborn band of left wing zealots who simply refuse to accept the result as a repudiation of their agenda, but rather as evidence of a sinister conspiracy by the Evil Tories.

One of the most disturbing trends has been the number of fringe lunatics on social media openly speculating that the awful Islamist terror attacks in Manchester and London were in fact “false flags” planned (or at least allowed to happen) by the Conservatives in order to shore up support for Theresa May’s government.

Here is one such crackpot:

I’m not doubting that it’s likely Radical-Islamists who carried out the terror attack in Manchester, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the figures in the Tory government might have known the possibility of a potential attack, but for reasons of political expediency did nothing to prevent it from happening. We know prior to 7/7 bombing the security services had kept tabs on members of the terrorist cell which carried out the attack, it’s now a matter of record that the Bush administration had been briefed in the summer of a 2001 there was highly likely to be a terrorist act in the autumn of that year involving aircraft, so tell me again if I’m being fucking ridiculous in suggesting Theresa May might have had prior warning of the Manchester terror attack but did nothing to prevent it from happening to bolster her chances in the General Election because I know that’s what you’re thinking!

I find it a very suspicious coincidence that when Labour are closing the gap in the opinion polls, despite the Tory press being chockfull of accusations attempting to smear Jeremy Corbyn is a terrorist sympathiser, when the Tories are launching attack upon Jeremy Corbyn & Labour being weak on terrorism & national security, there’s suddenly a horrific terrorist attack which enables Theresa May to play the strong leader in a crisis etc, it’s quite possible that the Manchester terror attack is to Theresa May what the Falklands were to Margret Thatcher.

And of course it is perfectly fine to engage in such disgusting speculation, because after all, the Evil Tor-ees kill people all the time as a result of their heartless refusal to firehose endless sums of money at the welfare state:

There of course will be Tory supporters who’ll will be thinking absolutely appalling I accuse Theresa May & the Tory government of allowing peeps (including children) to be killed to win an election, as if the Tories haven’t killed thousands of peeps with disabilities to give their wealthy chums tax cuts, as if successive government haven’t sent young soldiers off to wars for oil & profit, so I really don’t think the establishment would have any qualms killing a few children to win them an election which for them has a great deal riding on it.

And for every one unhinged blogger who openly deals in fringe conspiracy theorising such as this, I’ll wager that there are ten more left-wing activists who nod along with the sentiment if not the details – who believe that the Tories do in fact deliberately want to kill or harm innocent people through their policies (rather than simply believing that the path to self-sufficiency and prosperity doesn’t run through big government and mass dependency on welfare).

This is going to become a real problem for the British political Left. Their uncontrolled fury at the world, at their countrymen who fail to see eye to eye with them, is making them ever more extreme in their actions (vandalising war memorials, physically harassing politicians) and in their public rhetoric. Worse still, the prestige left wing media are starting to indulge in the same unhinged behaviour.

The country at large sees this. The people are watching, taking note and recoiling in disgust. The Left needs to disown these people and exorcise them from their political parties, groups and organisations if they want to maintain even a shred of credibility following this general election.

8 June – 19:15

Getting out the Tory vote

It looks as though the vaunted (and feared) Conservative online / social media marketing effort is humming along quite nicely as they try to get out their vote. Interestingly, the ads showing on Facebook today still make prominent mention of Theresa May over the Conservative Party – it had previously been speculated that the Tories might dial down their focus on the prime minister given her awful, uninspiring election campaign.

Conservative Party - Theresa May - facebook ads general election

8 June – 18:55

An unlikely Tory recruit

In 2015, Brendan O’Neill declined to vote and penned an eloquent defence of his decision. But now in 2017, O’Neill – a fierce and determined critic of the “middle class clerisy” who have infected and taken over the Labour Party – is going a step further and casting his vote for the Conservative Party.

O’Neill explains in Coffee House:

Today, for the first time in my life, I voted Tory. And somewhat disappointingly I haven’t sprouted horns yet. I haven’t been overcome by an urge to pour champagne on homeless people’s heads or to close down my local library and guffaw at any rosy-cheeked child who pleads: ‘But I want books, mister.’ I don’t feel evil. Maybe that stuff comes later. Maybe it takes a few days before you turn into a living, breathing Momentum meme, screaming ‘Screw the poor!’ as you ping your red braces.

In fact I feel good. It always feels good to vote, of course, to hold the fate of the political class in your hands. Election Day is such a wonderful if fleeting reminder of where power ought to lie in a democracy: with us, the crowd, whether we’re clever or thick, good or bad, old or young. I love this feeling, and the undoubted terror it temporarily induces in those who rule over us. But it also feels good to have lost my Tory-voting virginity. For one simple reason: I believe in democracy and press freedom, above everything else, and only the Tories have committed themselves to defending those two things.

And concludes:

In recent years, nothing has better summed up the left’s vicious turn against the plebs it once claimed to like than its disgust with Brexit and its fear of a free, raucous press. In its Brexitphobia, we see its deep discomfort with the whole idea of democracy, with allowing even ‘low information’ people a say in politics. And in its constant, shrill state of fury with the allegedly dangerous red-tops we see its fear of the reading public and what they might start to think if they have access to all sorts of strange, outré opinions. The left’s abandonment of democracy and press freedom really signals the death of this once great movement. Well, I still believe in those two things, and so today, happily, I voted for the only party that says it believes in them too.

O’Neill, recall, is editor of radical left-leaning magazine Spiked Online. And while it’s fair to say that Brendan O’Neill doesn’t represent a particularly large or influential wing of the Labour coalition, the fact that left-libertarians are crossing the floor to vote for Theresa May’s Conservatives (of all parties!) is a damning indictment of the direction of the Labour Party since 1997.

For how much longer can Labour stand in general opposition to Brexit, free speech and the interests of their one-time working class base without provoking a reaction even more extreme than the Corbynite takeover?

8 June – 18:15

How about those LibDems?

Remember when this was going to be the year of the Great LibDem Comeback, when the “voiceless” 48% stood up as one to assert their status as Citizens of the World and Proud Europeans, and rewarded the Liberal Democrats for their strident anti-Brexit stance? Well, it doesn’t seem to be amounting to much.

The day before polls opened, LibDem leader Tim Farron could be found shoring up the vote of Foreign Affairs spokesman and Carshalton incumbent MP, Tom Brake:

Clearly the Liberal Democrats are not on the march up and down the country if Farron is fighting a rearguard effort to cling on to a marginal seat (majority 1510) rather than barnstorming around the country putting the fear of God into marginal Labour and Tory seats.

But how badly would the LibDems have to do for Tim Farron’s leadership to be in danger? While you don’t hear many grumblings in public, I can’t help but wonder whether the LibDem membership (and what’s left of the parliamentary party) might not secretly relish the opportunity to get rid of a leader whose awkward traditional Christian beliefs on the subject of abortion (historically) and homosexuality (potentially still today, though Farron equivocates) have cost the party some bad press and lost momentum.

Of course, this would be hugely unfair. The real reason that Tim Farron should go is that he makes the name “Liberal Democrat” into a laughing stock by often being neither liberal nor democratic – see his eagerness to hold another vote on the terms of our departure from the EU, purely in the hope that this will present an opportunity to thwart the whole thing. By contrast, the fact that Tim Farron holds private religious beliefs which he has no interest or intention of legislating or foisting upon anyone else is surely the calling card of a true liberal – and bizarrely the main root of his unpopularity. Go figure.

8 June – 17:30

No, it doesn’t have to be like this

Let me just slip in this promotion before people start bemoaning our electoral system and the paucity of real democratic choice available to people – a shout out for the Harrogate Agenda.

Their six demands:

1. Recognition of our sovereignty – the people, not the government
2. Real local democracy – devolving power to the counties
3. Separation of powers – separating the executive from the legislature
4. The people’s consent – no treaty ratification without approval
5. No taxation or spending without consent
6. A constitutional convention

This blog has been a long-time supporter. If you find yourself dissatisfied beyond the usual partisan grievances as the results roll in tonight, give the Harrogate Agenda your consideration.

Brexit – in whatever form it ultimately comes – should not and must not be the ultimate end point of this journey. Leaving the EU will not renew our democracy – it merely makes the renewal of our democracy possible. But from that point onward, we must seize the opportunity to reshape our democratic institutions, recover power for ourselves and hold public servants to better account. We need to be more active citizens, not passive consumers who sit about, petulantly demanding More Stuff from the government. This seems as good an opening as any.

8 June – 16:00

The intolerant, illiberal Left do their thing

There have been numerous disturbing reports of left-wing activists buying up all of the copies of right-leaning newspapers from their local shops and newsagents, and then publicly burning them so as to deprive other people of the opportunity to read their pro-Tory headlines, editorials and endorsements.

Brendan O’Neill’s response is absolutely correct:

This is a new low. Members of the Twitterati are boasting about buying up all the tabloids from their local newsagents and either binning them or burning them. Why? To protect the allegedly gullible plebs who read these papers from their anti-Labour editorials in the hope of stopping them from slavishly tramping to the polling station to vote Tory. They are using money and fire to try to deprive the lower orders of political reading material on Election Day. This is one of the foulest acts yet by the Twitterati. Hot tip: when you’re burning literature, you’ve lost the fucking plot.

Even the New Statesman realises that this fascistic action is counterproductive:

Let’s leave aside the obvious similarities between burning newspapers and certain German rituals of the late 30s (Sorry Godwin’s law), there’s another reason this tactic stinks.

Sure, you can accuse the right-wing press of smearing Jeremy Corbyn, cheerleading for the Tories and doing everything they can to stop progressive politics advancing. But trying to deny people the ability to read these newspapers doesn’t just suggest censorship, it is censorship. It’s actively taking away people’s access to information they want. And if anyone thinks they are protecting the poor befuddled Sun or Mail readers from the noxious views contained in those pages, they should probably consider quite how patronising that is.

If we really want people to break free of misplaced right-wing views, to lift the veil placed over their eyes by the right wing press, then we should probably be talking to them.

Talking to conservative voters as intelligent peers rather than hateful or ignorant dupes. What a novel idea.

But if the Left’s violent wing are already burning things before voting has even closed, we should all be concerned about a repeat of the 2015 riots and vandalism. These people do not take defeat well.

8 June – 14:30

Welcome!

Welcome to this semi-partisan live blog of the 2017 general election results. Updates will probably be sparse until later in the evening, picking up pace as we approach poll closing time and the release of the exit poll at 10PM. I’ll keep going for as long as things remain interesting and there are still issues and arguments to dissect, advance and rebut.

Please feel free to share your thoughts using the Comments feature, by emailing me at semipartisansam@gmail.com or engaging with me on Twitter @SamHooper.

For an overall summary of my take on this dismal election campaign as it progressed, see these recent posts in particular:

Theresa May Calls a General Election: First Reaction

Stop Applauding “Election Fatigued” Brenda From Bristol

Will The Snap General Election Damage Trust In Politicians?

2017 General Election Campaign: The Last Stand For Conviction Politics?

The SpAdocracy And Theresa May’s Flawed Plans For Social Care

The British Left’s Cunning Plan To Reach Working Class Voters: Insult Them

Labour’s Cynical, Disingenuous National Debt Hysteria

Voters Know Left Wing Policies Are Individually Alluring But Collectively Foolish

Labour And The Left Simply Do Not Get Patriotism

Is It Time For The Conservatives To Get Over Thatcher?

General Election 2017: The Unbearable Light-weightedness of British Politics

General Election 2017: We Get The Politicians We Deserve

General Election 2017: An Unpredictable Race in Hampstead & Kilburn

General Election 2017: Decision Time

Regular readers will know that I have struggled to summon any kind of enthusiasm for this general election given the circumstances and the state of the main parties – particularly the current state of conservatism – but I’m sure that the election bug will finally bite at some point this evening, and then we will be up and away.

Thanks for joining, and stay posted!

 

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General Election 2017: The Unbearable Light-weightedness Of British Politics

rainbow unicorn

We can’t go on like this

I’m just going to come out and say it: given the appallingly weak options available, Jeremy Corbyn probably deserves to be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong: if his hard-left socialist policies and aspirations were fully enacted, Corbyn would also likely be the last prime minister of the United Kingdom, but that’s another matter.

After all, is not the point of democracy, of elections, to give the people their right to choose political leadership and representation which they want to see take their communities and their country forward? And if so, who during this miserable general election campaign has done more to convince the British public that they are a person of principle and conviction, willing to tell uncomfortable truths as they see them while standing up to entrenched special interests – Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn?

Let’s compare.

Who produced an election manifesto which represented some of the best traditions (and sincerely held political views) of their party? That would be Jeremy Corbyn. Who huddled together with two unelected aides to produce in secret a manifesto which declared war on her own voters, repudiated Thatcherism, threw the libertarian wing under the bus and pandered to the worst instincts of everybody who thinks that the state should be like a third parent to them? That would be the “conservative” prime minister, Theresa May.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour manifesto, in all its leftist, spendthrift glory: costed. Theresa May’s Coke Zero Conservative manifesto – “coke zero” because like the drink, it has the same branding as the real thing but none of the ideological, calorific ooomph which makes it taste good and perk you up – not so much.

Who has made gaffe after gaffe and exacted numerous self-inflicted political wounds, missteps and humiliating U-turns on her party and campaign? That would be Theresa May, whose claim to unruffled, grown-up leadership looks more and more tarnished by the day. Who seems to have finally stopped his penchant for weekly PR disasters and learned not to intervene when his enemy is making a mistake? That would be the old rube, Jeremy Corbyn, despite the fact that he faces a highly antagonistic press.

Who has behaved like an adult and at least accepted the necessity of a Brexit deal with the European Union (however weak a negotiator he would otherwise likely be) as a precursor for economic stability? That would be Corbyn. Meanwhile, who still publicly entertains the confidence-sapping notion of no deal and a disastrous crash out of the EU? That would be strong ‘n stable Theresa.

And who found the courage to go on national television and articulate their party’s values and vision for Britain in tonight’s BBC election debate? Jeremy Corbyn. Who was frightened and cowered away in Downing Street, risibly sending a surrogate minister to fight her battles? That would be the ever-formidable Theresa May.

Whatever one thinks of Jeremy Corbyn, there is mounting evidence that Theresa May simply does not have what it takes to be a successful British prime minister in the 21st century. Perhaps being a diligent, hardworking, non-telegenic, secretive authoritarian with a tiny circle of close-knit advisers helped Theresa May when she was Home Secretary. Lord knows it allowed her to become prime minister despite the party and the country barely having any idea of her core values or guiding philosophy. But as prime minister in the television and internet age, May’s natural reticence doesn’t play well.

You can say that this is a small and petty criticism, and in some ways it is. And perhaps personality should matter less, but we must deal with the world as it is rather than as we would like it to be. When Theresa May skulks in the back row of G7 summit family photos while Donald Trump gladhands with the boy wonder French president Emmanuel Macron and “leader of the free world” Angela Merkel, one gets the strong impression that she similarly fails to win hearts and minds in the all-important closed door sessions.

For all their arrogance and vapidity, the American political elite positively purr over Emmanuel Macron, bulwark against Evil Brexit and saviour of the “liberal world order”. I would wager that far fewer could even name Theresa May. And this advances British interests with our closest and most important ally how, precisely? Donald Trump is one man, quite possibly soon to be an ex-president if the slow-motion coup against him ultimately succeeds. Meanwhile the vast apparatus of American government remains a juggernaut fully committed to the internationalist status quo, and Theresa May is doing nothing to persuade them that any of their preconceptions about the evilness of Brexit and the EU’s self-evident splendour are wrong. A better, more natural communicator would have a fighting chance.

Two provisos: First, Jeremy Corbyn would do no better in this regard, and quite possibly far worse, given that his worldview is based in no small part on anti-Americanism. But Theresa May only looks vaguely acceptable in this regard because Jeremy Corbyn would be so appalling. That’s not a ringing endorsement or a solid qualification for remaining prime minister.

And second, it is hardly as though the Conservative front benches are brimming over with talent one thinks of as solid alternative prime ministers – Boris Johnson is rightly known in America and around the world as a fool who uses a bumbling persona and a smattering of Latin phrases to mask an insatiable vanity and hunger for the spotlight. Who else to choose? Philip Hammond? Well, at least Theresa May makes him look fiscally responsible by comparison, but he’s no media performer. Amber Rudd? She’s a loyal soldier and did a highly commendable job stepping into Theresa May’s shoes for tonight’s debate, particularly so soon after the death of her elderly father earlier this week, but a potential leader? Who else, then? Seriously, I’m asking? Who?

If you had to design the perfect Tory party leader and prime ministerial candidate for this moment in time specifically, what would they look like? Well, everybody probably has their own preferences, but here would be my take on what would work best both politically in Britain and as a person capable of commanding interest and admiration on the world stage:

Ex armed forces (of either gender), mid to senior rank, with an illustrious overseas deployment history. Someone who exudes unapologetic patriotism yet never lapses into cheap jingoism, and whose commitment to defence, national security and veterans affairs is beyond question.

Followed up by a successful later career, possibly in the third sector or the arts but better still in the private sector, having founded a stonking great big corporation that also gives back to the community by employing ex-offenders or partnering with charities to do meaningful work in society.

A solid and consistent record (at least dating to the start of the EU referendum campaign) on Brexit, able to tell a compelling story about how Brexit – properly done – can be good for our democracy and at least neutral on the economic front.

A person who believes that until somebody comes up with a viable alternative to (or augmentation of) the democratic nation state, this institution remains the best method yet devised of ordering human affairs, and that consequently we should not needlessly undermine and vandalise it by vesting power in antidemocratic supranational organisations or pretending that we can sidle our way into a post-patriotic world by stealth rather than with the consent of the people.

Somebody who will not bargain away our civil liberties chasing the chimera of absolute security from terrorists and madmen – particularly while refusing to face down radical Islamism as an ideology to be confronted and defeated – but who will also stand up to expansionist, nonsensical definitions of human rights and an identity politics / political correctness agenda that values hurt feelings more than freedom of expression.

Somebody with the articulateness, gravitas, sincerity and quickness of thought capable of doing the near impossible in 2017: single-handedly turning the tide away from the vapid, broken politics of me, me, me. Somebody willing to ask – as John F. Kennedy once did – not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country. Somebody who dares to call us to a higher purpose than merely living in a country with “good public services”, deifying “Our NHS” and having the goddamn trains run on time.

Somebody who chooses for us to go to the moon (or rather its current day equivalent in terms of spectacular human achievement) “and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills”. Kennedy again.

Somebody who realise that unless we as a society nurture and maintain some kind of higher common purpose with one another – and we’ve largely done away with organised religion in Britain, while the Left’s commitment to unlimited multiculturalism has made even the suggestion of unifying around non-negotiable core values prima facie evidence of seething intolerance or racism – we are doomed to fracture into separate warring special interest groups and victimhood lobbies jockeying for position. A country so lacking in confidence in its own values that it refuses to proclaim them, let alone insist upon them. A country in name only, led by a conservative in name only.

So where is such a potential transformative, neo-Thatcherite Tory leader? Where is such a potential leader of any political party in Britain? Good luck finding them. Look at the typical calibre of people who now become MPs. Sure, you get some who are diligent constituency MPs or single issue campaigners, but this only highlights the flaw of a system of government which draws the executive from the legislature. Look at the new or new-ish MPs of any party with serious ministerial ambitions and you’ll generally find nothing but focus group-approved platitudes and a yawning chasm where ideology or principle ought to reside. Look at the seven characters who lined up behind podiums to debate the issues on primetime TV.

No such party leader (or surrogate) standing on stage at tonight’s BBC televised election debate in Cambridge lived up to even one of these tests. The seven parties of the Left – Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, Scottish National, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and now Theresa May’s rootless Tories – only know how to campaign by promising people stuff. Lots of stuff, any stuff. More more more. Better, bigger, shinier public services. A welfare state blindly doling out the same universal benefits in disbursements which are laughably small for the wealthy (who don’t need them but are hooked on them because that’s how universal benefits do their dirty work) yet which too often allow the genuinely sick and disabled to barely subsist. Promise after promise. No call to citizenship, to personal responsibility. Just endless promises of safety, security and more stuff, all for free.

Vote for me, I’ll keep you safe from terror. Just gonna need your Facebook password, please. No, vote for me, I’ll keep the economy strong because we all know the only point of a strong economy is to raise more tax to spend on the NHS. Liar! You want to destroy Our Precious NHS! You want people to die in the streets when they get sick, just like they do in America. No, we are now the true party of the NHS! Anything for Our NHS, oh god, anything and everything, my very life for Our Blessed NHS.

Oi! Look over here, free university tuition! Yeah, it’s subsidised by the taxes of other people who never went to university and whose earning power has not been boosted through having a degree, but still. Fairness! Young people are the future! No, no, no, it’s all about the environment. That evil party wants to build an experimental nuclear fusion plant in your grandmother’s basement. But we will bulldoze nasty, Brexit-supporting Stoke-on-Trent and replace it with a massive solar panel field. Much better.

No, look over here! We will bring back British Rail; remember how great British Rail was? Who needs Pret when you’ve got a trusty British Rail egg and cress sandwich? Nice and warm, of course, just like the good old days. Let’s have car-commuting taxpayers in Gainsborough subsidise the travel of London-based city commuters, because fairness. British Rail? Scoff. I’ll see your British Rail and raise you British Leyland! Woohoo – nationalisation, baby! For the Common Good.

All immigrants are a godsend, to the last man. If it weren’t for immigrants, your inflamed appendix would have been dug out by a native-born, chain-smoking school dropout with a can of special brew in his spare hand, and don’t you forget it. No, of course we should have a sensible, measured conversation about immigration. It’s just that I’ll stand here and shriek into the TV cameras that you’re an evil, divisive racist if you disagree with me. But please, go ahead. No no, we should listen patiently to people’s concerns and then carefully explain to them why they are wrong. People love that.

Oh, you? No dear, you don’t have to do anything. We, the politicians, are here to promise you stuff, to pander to your every passing whim. If I’m prime minister, I will make it my overriding personal concern to fix the broken chairs at your GP surgery waiting room – I’ll come round and do it myself, I’ve got some tools in the shed – and make sure that New British Rail adds free wifi to your single-carriage metro train between Stoke and Crewe. Seriously, no worries. I’ll call the boss at 6AM every day until it happens. NATO summit? Geopolitics? Statecraft? Boring! Why be a statesman when I can be a glorified town councillor for 65 million insatiable people? I’m on the case for you, and your every last petty concern. I’ll read foreign policy briefings when I’m on the can, that stuff doesn’t matter.

Heavens no, of course we don’t need to properly empower local politicians to make decisions in the local interest, raising and spending taxes independently of Westminster. For I am running to be Comptroller of British Public Services, and my sole job, my only care in the world is to make your passage through life as easy and painless as possible. You and 65 million of your fellow citizens. The buck stops with me, because public services are everything. After all, Britain didn’t do anything of value or renown on the world stage until we starting implementing the Beveridge Report. Not a damn thing. And now we’ve jacked up the size of the state so much and you have to deal with it so bloody frequently that we’d darn well better make sure you come skipping away happy from every last interaction – too many bad experiences for you are political suicide for us.

All seven of them, yapping away on stage like this as the minutes ticked by and the left-wing Cambridge audience dutifully clapped along to each pledge of More Free Stuff like so many trained seals. But at least Jeremy Corbyn sounded like he meant it, like he was advocating all of these things because they flowed from a sincere and coherent – if utterly misguided – worldview. The rest were just preening, moralising virtue-signalling charlatans. With the exception of Amber Rudd, who did sterling work in the face of her leader’s cowardice, and whom I will not criticise given the circumstances of her appearance.

Now, all of that being said, the prospect (raised by new YouGov polling showing a tightening race) of Jeremy Corbyn overperforming expectations, gaining seats in parliament and entering 10 Downing Street as prime minister backed by a “pwogwessive alliance” of Britain’s childlike left-wing parties, is simply untenable. And so I will vote Conservative on June 8, because my constituency of Hampstead & Kilburn is a tight two-way marginal and the Labour incumbent MP, Tulip Siddiq, was a staunch Corbyn supporter and an unrepentant enemy of Brexit.

So yes, I’ll vote Tory this time. But Lord knows I’ll feel unclean and deeply depressed while doing so, with zero expectation that it will result in anything positive for the country and with considerably more admiration for the man I hope to see defeated than the woman I barely want to win.

Britain, we can do better than this. Probably not much better realistically, at least right now – because as a society we have fallen and been infantilised to such a worrying degree – but still we can do better than these paltry political party leaders. They’re all just so very…small.

Somebody, anybody else, please step up soon. Deep down, as a nation we want more than is being offered to us by Jeremy Corbyn, his provincial Mini Me’s and a confused Tory leader who thinks the path to victory involves dismantling – rather than building upon – the legacy of our greatest post-war prime minister.

Step forward, find the spirit of public service and call us to action, too. Ask us to set our sights beyond our own narrow interests, beyond our bank balances, our bin collections, our next step on the property ladder, the feelings of our intersectional identity groups, the fate of our free mobile roaming calls in Tuscany. Help give us a new purpose, a common purpose, a higher purpose.

Set us a challenge.

 

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