Election Fever

4 July 2024

Election Fever

Taking the temperature.

By Lynda Goetz

Ever since Rishi Sunak chose to make his ill-fated announcement in pouring rain of a July 4th election, the Conservative Party, the media, the public, the Labour Party and pretty much everyone else involved, have predicted a Labour victory. The Conservatives (apart from Sunak himself, interestingly) almost all seem resigned to losing.  A record 75 Tory MPs are not seeking re-election on July 4th, including the veteran Bill Cash (elected in 1984) and several former Ministers, amongst them a household name, Michael Gove. It is hard not to think of rats and sinking ships or of the similar number (72) who stepped down before the Conservative defeat by Tony Blair in 1997.

It is hardly difficult to see why the Conservatives are unpopular. For those who voted them in there has been serious disappointment. Their delivery of conservatism with a small ‘c’ has been minimal and ‘wokery’ has been allowed to prevail not only in the civil service, the police, the NHS, schools and academia, but in corporate Britain as well; Brexit freedoms have not been taken advantage of (although Brexit in any case was always going to have taken time before the benefits were reaped); ‘partygate’ reflected badly on a government which imposed authoritarian lockdowns on its population and whose members then appeared to consider themselves above complying with their own regulations; benefit payments and worklessness have reached record levels; the tax burden is at its highest since we were at war and immigration has reached such high levels that it threatens our national culture and identity. For those who never supported the Conservatives, the state of the NHS, the lack  of social care, Brexit, the cost-of-living crisis and immigration are all issues which highlight the failures of 14 years of Tory government.

But… is there really going to be a ‘supermajority’ socialist government in power after July 4th as many polls and minister Mel Stride have confidently predicted? Apart from the fact that a government with such a huge majority would not bode well for the immediate future of democracy in this country, could this threat have been some sort of double bluff put forward by the Conservative party itself to worry those who might be thinking of making a protest vote? It does not seem beyond the bounds of possibility. Could it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or, is Sunak correct in his latest calculation that just 130,000 votes could make all the difference between a landslide defeat and a hung parliament?

Sir Keir Starmer keeps telling us that his party is the party of ‘change’ and that after 14 years of Tory mismanagement he will somehow put everything right. Aside from the fact that his party would have subjected us to even more authoritarian lockdowns for longer than the Conservatives (equally without any cost/benefit analysis); that ‘wokism’ is more of a left-wing than a right wing approach and that already we are being given fudged answers to basic questions about how to deal with ‘gender-questioning’ children and teaching in schools on the trans issues; that in spite of the fact Labour claims its plans are fully funded, there is clearly going to be a raid on capital and inheritance to pay for increased benefits and public services; that current illegal immigrants are not going to be removed, but simply granted an amnesty, which will encourage immigration to continue on an upward trajectory, (migrants in Calais are admitting to waiting for an incoming Labour government); it is hard to see what ‘change’ he is actually talking about.  There will simply be more of the same on a larger and potentially more damaging scale.

David Starkey in an brilliant lecture points out that we are seemingly about to elect a government that no-one really wants and attempts to explain why this is.  He puts forward the argument that the main reason the last 14 years of Conservative government have been so catastrophic is that New Labour, by its constitutional reforms, completely subverted the sovereignty of Parliament. By granting total independence to the Bank of England, by creating a Supreme Court, by the creation of quangos such as Natural England and by devolution, Tony Blair ensured that even with a Conservative government in power, conservatism could not prevail. Our government, instead of being founded on the sovereignty of Parliament has been Americanised. Starkey fears that if Starmer becomes our PM this process will continue and indeed accelerate.

Apart from the fact that very few under 45 now have any real depth of historical knowledge, there is also, of course, the added problem of modern media. It is quite evident to anybody who cares to notice that our so-called independent public broadcasters are nothing of the sort. Almost all those working inside these organisations are Left leaning and many find it hard not to show their bias when interviewing or reporting. Beyond that there have been some questionable incidents where both Channel 4 and the BBC have allegedly paid actors or activists (somehow at arms-length of course). GB News may be unashamedly Right-wing, but will it be allowed to continue broadcasting under a Labour government? As for social media, it is almost impossible to contain any posts which go viral and these can easily influence those who are easily swayed, one way or another. Thus are many of the less rational ideas promulgated over recent years popularised and spread.

With the whiff of defeat in the air, Tories are it seems already looking to a post-election world. Some, like Steve Baker, are unashamedly floating the idea of their own candidacy for leader. Others, like Rory Stewart are urging Conservatives to ‘govern from the centre’. Well, they may not very shortly be governing from anywhere, but isn’t the problem that that is exactly what they have already been doing? They have not been listening to either their members and supporters or to the wider public. Had they been doing so they would not have reached the point they have done where they are seen as arrogant and totally removed from the concerns of ‘ordinary’ people.

 Part of the problem has been the way the Cameron era reforms severed the links between Conservative Central Office and its grass roots supporters. In his desire to get rid of the ‘pale, male and stale’ image of candidates, Cameron set up a ‘priority’ list of candidates with the aim of half being female and a large proportion from ethnic minorities. This push for ‘positive discrimination’ has had its benefits and has clearly resulted in a much more diverse Conservative party. However, it has been achieved at the expense of a loss of connection with those doing the ‘leg work’ on the ground. Even in this current election Central Office has parachuted in candidates which it favours, former SPADs and others with Westminster links, to replace outgoing MPs. This increases the alienation which members feel from Westminster. My local party actually referred in an election communication to ‘recent distractions at Westminster’, clearly hoping that somehow voters could ignore the connection and focus on local issues.

All over Europe Right-wing parties and leaders are being voted in. The main reason? The same reason as populist leaders like Farage here and Trump in America are achieving support – migration. Migration is the huge problem which is leading to so many of our other problems. This is the reason we do not have enough housing, or enough schools or enough capacity in the NHS. This, along with our ageing population and a seeming increase in worklessness since Covid, is one of the reasons our benefits system is under such strain. Our population has increased by such a massive amount in the years since the beginning of this century, not because the birth rate has gone up, quite the contrary, but because of the rapid increase in immigration, legal and illegal. The statistics are quite clear on this matter and the evidence in towns and cities around the country is there for us all to see. The British are on the whole a very tolerant nation. Unlike the French, we do not take to the streets at the first sign of something we do not like. Unlike the rest of Europe, we appear to be moving to the Left when Europe and America are moving Right. This could make our new Labour government’s relations with both more difficult, and Starmer might just need to recognise that even if his party been voted in with a ‘supermajority’ (which I am unconvinced is going to be the case), one of the biggest gripes with the Conservatives has been migration and their inability to get a grip on it. This remains the case and a Labour government’s refusal to recognise this could be its first mis-step. Perhaps it should take a leaf out of Denmark’s book. There centre-left parties have taken a draconian, and what many would consider to be a ‘far-Right’ approach to immigration, and there is much less discontent over the subject than there is in the rest of Europe. As for all the other issues, I suspect ‘change’, if it happens, will not be of the sort people were hoping for and that any euphoria at having got rid of the ‘useless’ Tories may well be short-lived.

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