What ever happened to the Conservative party?

The pandemic and panic take their toll.

Tree of the year 2015, see footnote.Tree of the year 2015, see footnote.Here we go to lockdown, again. It's been tried before and does not work. Or it's been tried before and was so successful we repeat it. What do you think? One good question leads to another; what ever happened to the Conservative party? We have in a previous article, see below on the Home page, asked the same question about the budget. That article was posted on May 1st a few months after the party came to power. Yes hindsight is a wonderful thing but we should not be shy of taking advantage of the long view. As further on again the shape of things is even clearer. Prior to the December 12th 2019 General Election the whole of UK politics was in the doldrums. The combined efforts of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn had damaged more than their own parties. The entire UK political mechanism was frozen. Then along came Boris Johnson. He was neither of them and, so it seemed, only semi-attached to the Conservative party. At the time this looked like an advantage. Thus you could vote for him because you had grown weary of May or Corbyn or both. You could also vote for him if you were weary of the Conservative party, so why not? He was the odd ball, not like the rest of them. Then again if you wanted Brexit, and 17.4 million people did, he was an obvious choice. As we wrote in that previous article,

the future could bring an odd situation of a popular PM but disquiet about the Government's policies

That was nearly right, recent polls show that in ex-Red Wall territory 'Boris' is still popular and would win an election if needed although the majority would be hard to predict. However, within the party ranks he is well below Rishi Sunak in approval rating. The website Conservative Home, usually known as, Con-Home, ran a poll which put the PM in a negative position well below the rest of the Cabinet.It is too easy, too convenient, to dismiss polls as worthless. For Con-Home is different as it's awash with activists and local officials who know the party well. They are voicing concerns about not just party policy but party performance too. The policies are seen as weak and ill defined, what does, 'levelling up' mean? It cannot mean all things to all people for that would be absurd. But then you never know as following a lecture on obesity the Government launched the: 'Eat Out to Help Out' scheme. To help whom or what? If obesity really is a problem then perhaps asking people to stay home and eat less would have been better? Then we have party performance, fat chance of that getting better right now! The Con-Home people are concerned that 'U turns' are not really policy adjustment and fine tuning,which is what the Government would have us think, but dithering and blunders. But why so many of them? There was a time when mistakes could be passed off as the result of dealing with Covid-19. Not anymore, many months on if the Government can't work out what to do then they never will. There are the BLM protestors who, on the one hand point the finger at the Government for not doing enough to protect them from the virus, then on the other hand carry on with illegal raves. Apart from people like that most of the public can now work out what's going on. What they see is a Government still spooked by Covid-19. Also, and even worse, still wondering what to do now they are in power.

One part of the problem is people. Not enough of them. Not enough top rate MPs, people who are good enough to promote to the cabinet. That is part of why we have so many blunders. Naturally you would, ideally, have to be a Leaver of long standing to get cabinet rank. We should remind ourselves that while people like Philip Hammond have gone, the new intake of MPs are not all good and possible replacements for departed Remainers. In fact some are dire. The reason here is that 80 seat majority. Back at the start of November the party ran a private meeting in London for key workers at which Isaac Levido, the respected political scientist and campaign strategist, who said a 20 to 40 seat majority was predicted. In other words some candidates were lucky and not expected to win, but did so. They were the weaker candidates put up without due care and attention and went in to contest constituencies deemed a bit tricky. They are easy to spot. They would have been regional busy-bodies or councillors, noisy but not really effective. Taking a lead from the then PM Theresa May, whom they adored, they were devout Remainers, or as they thought, true Conservatives. Like May they saw their duty to the country and the party to make the best of a bad job. In other words let the EU kick us black and blue because of this daft thing about leaving their club.

Eventually the wheels fell off that wagon. But in the blink of an eye they knew Boris was right for them, and some of them had never even met him. They knew he was the real deal just right for them and their lust for power. At impressive speed they invited themselves into the local chumocracy and were soon well established. Come the hustings their transformation was complete they were proud Leavers. Now they are MPs, some with rather slim majorities, and their general demeanour gives the game away. The jargon came easily to them. Hear them talk and you would think they are old hands at the game and brimming with confidence. Or so it seems. But in truth they are not sure what to do and in a reciprocal way the party hierarchy is not sure what to do with them! They have flooded on to the 1922 Committee and for most of them this is as far as they will go. Some may even be unseated as the next election. This is a real problem for the Conservative party, normally a ready supply of talent, with experience is waiting for promotion. But not at this moment in time. So what happens next?
Not a lot as politics is frozen again just like in the days of May. The Brexit debate is back and Government is not keen to be seen to wobble. This means MPs must support the PM, even the Remainers. That's how they got their job if they are new MPs or kept it if not, Boris was the winning ingredient for them.

On the other hand all the MPs must also butter up the constituents. These people, the constituents, might still be under the illusion the MPs are onside with the sense of outrage at the way the Government has handled Covid-19. For make no mistake here, the public trust is wearing thin. But this makes an assumption. Let's go back to the years May was in office. The public assumed the Government was aware of their mounting frustration. In fact the Government was unmoved, another manifestation of the great disconnect between Government and the public.
Then the 1922 Committee suddenly woke up, hopes were raised then dashed again. It was assumed that the committee would not support the continuation of the Covid-19 control measures. There was a lot of press comment of how tough this committee was and the level of opposition to the Government. But they backed away, that was a mistake. For in the minds of the public not only is the front bench of the government not up to standard but neither are the backbenchers. There was a funny moment which was a fine example of the problem. The new Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, accused the Government of treating Parliament with "contempt" by pushing through new powers to tackle Covid-19 but without a proper debate.

Well up to a point Mr Speaker, up to a point. For the fact is the contempt is being shown to the public who can see Parliament letting them down and nothing being done about it. Furthermore, the Speaker has a role here but refused to allow an amendment to go forward to debate. But it's not only people, another part of the problem is the total misunderstanding of the national religion. The clapping for 'our' NHS is over. Mind you our NHS, what does this mean? The public pay for it that's for sure, then the politicians get to play with it. Like all governments this one has fallen in love with the monster. Then it makes the mistake of assuming the public are equally smitten. No they are not. So we had the strange idea of 'saving' the NHS from being overwhelmed by large numbers of Covid-19 cases. While the public thought the role of the NHS and other practical medical authorities was to 'deal' with the pandemic rather than to scold them for being ill. In fact the whole nationwide effort failed and the public have a right to complain. Finally on the subject of the NHS take a trip to your local hospital. The chances are it will be closed, banged up like a fortress and impenetrable to the public. Warning notices about Covid-19 on display as equally menacing as 'Keep Out' signs on RAF Lakenheath. The public car park will be empty but the staff car park full. What is going on? Certainly not the routine treatment of patients.

But what about 'our' economy and all the other things we have given up? How typical that the NHS is raised up to a God like status but our civil liberties are ignored. The Government is spending large amounts of public money but without much supervision going on, as Parliament is not what it was. So what has happened to the Conservative party and is it still Conservative? Real politics is more than just a relentless construction programme, think HS2, with eye-watering costs and, sometimes, doubtful practical benefit. Thus build, build, build has its limitations.

There is also the philosophical side of politics. The government of 'ideas'. We have seen moves by the Scottish Parliament to take the monitoring of thought and interaction between people on social media to new and ridiculous levels and our own Government's 'Online Harms White Paper' is in a similar vein, (Google this to see) . We have Covid Marshalls and official advice to snitch on our neighbours if they do not obey the Covid-19 rules. But what are the rules? Sure they exist but Ministers contradict each other and there is total confusion. Supporters of the Government might say they have been downed by Covid-19 and no government in the world has done well out of this crisis. Yet there's this presentation thing, following on from, 'get Brexit done' when the public expected a mix of dynamics and realism on Covid-19. But we have the second wave, three tiers and rule of six it's just numbers soup and looks weak and follows the crazy estimates of deaths from the SAGE 'experts' and the total muddle of NHS statistics. Perhaps it's something to do with numbers? The recent algorithm for house building was total nonsense. Any government who puts up such a thing deserves to be mocked. And yes, shovel ready Boris always digging another hole for himself!

There was a fight with Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham who, like all Metro Mayors, had his posturing skills to the fore. It was the fault of others, probably Southerners, that the statistics suggested there was a problem, but then you never know! So it was crazy for the Government to take him on, but they did. Who won? Who cares! The public could see this for what it was: a bun fight! Wales is closed with the police and Army on the border. We have the JBC, the Joint Biosecurity Centre, taking over from the seen to have failed SAGE group. However, the JBC is a good deal less transparent than SAGE. This could be a problem as there is no good reason why they should perform any better. So the focus swings wholly to the Government. Not ideal as is has taken a lot of leverage to get the facts about Exercise Cygnus published. This was the secret 'war game' run in late 2016 to ascertain the ability of the UK to deal with a pandemic like Covid-19. This exercise pointed to huge problems but few of them were addressed. We have to wonder how much the public can take before they blow up. They have lived through the great Brexit divide when Remainers clung to their beliefs because they were, 'worried about the economy'. Now there is a cult like movement that would impose even more restrictions upon us. But the damage to the economy is overlooked. We have had the North South divide rehashed as a Red Wall event. But only for a while. It soon reverted to the classical form when Northern cities had the Tier 3 regulations imposed upon them.

The public are looking for a scalp. The idea they adapt and accept the, 'new normal' while UK politics carries on its own sweet way is not possible. The Government must fathom out what to do for the best very soon. If not: 'what ever happened to the Conservative Party', will be the big question looking for an answer.

Footnote -
When we wrote, 'What ever happened to the Budget', we used the image of the Tory tree, its logo, as a lead picture, see below on the Home page. Now we learn that the tree of the year 2015 has been felled to build HS2! While the party supporters burble on about Zero Carbon, environmental issues and the like down comes a 250 year old tree for the 'magic railway', this is so typical of the Conservative party. The tree was honoured in 2015 and felled 5 years later. Theresa May became PM in 2016 and so began the downward spiral we see now. Will the party last another year?