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The vultures doth circle: who will feast upon the Conservative carcass?



Fourteen years of Tory rule is coming to an end. It is palpably obvious that the electorate is abandoning this Conservative government. Humiliated at the local elections, humbled almost daily by the unforgiving polls, it is clear that the Conservative Party as we know it stands to be electorally demolished. 


Good. All we have seen since 2022 is contemptuous, self-indulgent psychodramas, within the Tory government, play out in a preposterously brazen public manner. What adds to the sting of such disdainful, derisory governance is that it has come at a time when effective leadership is needed more than ever to navigate Britain through these troubled international waters. It is time for this insolent inefficacy to be well and truly put to bed. This country deserves and, pertinently, needs so much better. 


However, it is folly to believe that, just because the Conservatives have been so utterly inept, all right-wingers in this country can find peace in the Labour Party. This isn’t 1997. Keir Starmer is no Tony Blair. Recent floor crosser Natalie Elphicke, before you start, is not a credible example. She doesn’t find peace in Starmer’s Labour Party. She finds her peace in serving herself and her political career. This is an anomaly caused by pure narcissism. 


What we have witnessed, however, is an increasingly right-wing Conservative Party, ever drifting away from the sensical, pragmatic liberal conservatism espoused by the likes of David Cameron and Boris Johnson. An obsession with the Rwanda scheme, a fixation on ‘tackling’ protesters and assaulting freedom of speech - this is a stark contrast to the one-nation conservatism of a decade ago. 


Why the shift? Well, it’s obvious that Sunak and the powers that be in CCHQ believe the threat of losing votes to Reform UK, who take a more national populist approach to politics, is worth shifting the Tories further to the right. On a glance of the recent polls, this would make some sense. The Conservatives currently average around 22%, Reform 15%. But, all this does is serve Labour, splitting the vote in key constituencies. 


Many know that the jig is up. It is not a question of whether Sunak can win the election, but to what extent can he damage limitate and save a severe haemorrhaging of seats that would let the party itself bleed out. But that’s what many in the wings are waiting for. Patiently circling, vulture-like, ready to feast upon the Conservative carcass that remains after the imminent election.


You obviously have Reform UK. They’ve been chopping away at the more hardline right-wingers in the Conservative Party since 2019, with a real upsurge this year. Lee Anderson’s defection precipitated a resurgence of support for Nigel Farage’s brainchild, clearly enough to scare Sunak further and further to the right. But they are not the most interesting vulture to emerge to capitalise on the death of the Tories, despite being perhaps the most successful. 


Enter Dominic Cummings. Now I know what you’re thinking, no you haven’t woken up back in 2020. The political mastermind of manipulation is back. Last week, the Rasputin of British politics announced his provisional “Start-Up Party”. He envisages this new political vehicle as one focused on reducing illegal immigration, investing sufficiently into public services and infrastructure, radically cutting the civil service, and removing tax loopholes for “the 1 per cent.” 


For those of you who have forgotten, Cummings left the government disgraced after flagrantly violating the coronavirus regulations he helped implement. Since, he has polemically criticised Johnson and his administration over their handling of the pandemic. There should be a ban on snakes standing for office. I’m sure the electorate will see through this. 


If two vultures weren’t enough, please welcome Matt Goodwin. Now, let me caveat this by saying Goodwin is one of my favourite political scientists. His work on national populism and in detailing the shift in political attitudes across Britain and Europe over the last two decades has been invaluable in understanding events such as Brexit, Donald Trump, and the rise of right-wing populists on the continent. But now, he sets himself to enter the fray, to fill the void seemingly left by the demise of the Conservatives. 


At a flashy Mayfair reception last week, Goodwin announced that if his column receives 100,000 subscribers, he will launch a socially conservative party “providing [an] alternative” that he argues people “desperately need”. I think you’ll need a lot more than 100,000 subscribers to make more than a negligible impact at the next election. All this will do is split more votes and swing them Labour’s way - nonsensical, right?


The most exciting committee of vultures, however, is that of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. It has been well-documented that the two right-wing titans of British politics have been in talks to lead the Conservatives post-Sunak. With Reform averaging a cool 15 per cent in the polls, single digits away from the Tories, it is clear the Conservative Party is solidifying itself further to the right. There is an understanding that to revive the party’s electoral chances after this next general election, we could see the Tories led by this Johnson-Farage supergroup. This would be sure to set the cat amongst the pigeons and, most probably, see a significant rallying of support. For now, it remains hearsay. 


The emergence of new parties on the right, for this upcoming election at least, is electoral autocannibalism. The more parties, the more saturated the vote. The more options of the same flavour, the more likely the vote is split in key constituencies. Does the British Right really want to hand Starmer an underserved majority akin or greater to that of Tony Blair’s? 


Either way, it seems the Conservative Party as we know it, in its present form, stands to die a painful death at the ballot box. How much of this death will be aided by those in a similar ideological camp remains to be seen. With the British Right fragmenting into multiple parties, who knows, we may even see a resurgence of UKIP. All we do know, however, is that whatever beating the Tories get at the next election, it wouldn’t be undeserved. 



Image: Diliff

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