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The Tory Party Is In Big Trouble

09/10/2017 11:08 BST | Updated 09/10/2017 11:08 BST

Tory grandee Michael Heseltine, known as 'Tarzan' in the days of Thatcher, is 84. However, more potency comes from his interjections than came from the whole party conference. At the weekend, for example, Lord Heseltine suggested Theresa May should shuffle Boris Johnson to Mongolia.

This is funny, though perhaps less funny to Mongolians. The exasperation with the foreign secretary stems from Johnson's attempt to manipulate Brexit negotiations via right wing newspapers.

Such manipulations, without informing Number 10, shows an alarming sense of entitlement, given that Boris chickened out of the 2016 leadership contest, when Michael Gove -- the Draco Malfoy of UK politics -- announced he was standing. One can only speculate why BJ so quickly stood down. Perhaps he admires Gove so much that he wanted to give him an easy ride. Or not.

Tory knife fights can be subtle affairs, with the carnage going on behind the scenes. Using one's special advisers to brief against one's enemy, who might appear to be their closest friend, seems to be the order of the day.

Therefore, when May gets praise from the likes of Johnson and Gove, after a lamentable few months, she must sense cold steel on the back of her neck. It is not merely that such people have an insatiable desire for power, but the desire to shape Brexit amplifies the inherent Machiavellianism. Those waiting for the perfect moment to stab May could well believe that whoever shapes Brexit will gain Churchill-like status.

There are big problems with this. If you put the Brexit vote on a five-point scale, with one being 'don't want Brexit at all', two being 'not keen on Brexit', three being 'not sure', four being 'quite want Brexit' and five being 'really want Brexit', the UK voted for three. The split of the vote was almost 50/50. There certainly is nothing to suggest from the vote that the UK wants hard Brexit, with all the economic and societal damage, and legal chaos, this would entail.

Another problem with those on the right of the Conservative Party using Brexit to gain glory, while trying to drag the country to the right, is the toxicity this creates. Despite David Cameron's attempt to appear touchy feely (while imposing a cruel level of austerity), the Tory Party has been a toxic brand throughout my life. And, with the pomposity of Tory figures, it can be forgotten that they have only won two elections outright in a quarter of a century.

Brexit is the biggest issue facing the UK, and should not be used to satisfy Tory MPs' lust for power. Beyond the power-hungry figures, however, the party is in big trouble and I can see of no outcomes from their current conflicting trajectories that avoid disaster.

May thought a snap election would strengthen her position and allow her to impose the Brexit she desired. The UK rejected this and she lost the Tories a majority. The public also squarely rejected a hard Brexit, and so to pursue hard Brexit now could well lead to another election, which would essentially be a referendum on the sort of Brexit the public wants, if it wants one at all by then.

In addition, it would be an election on who can be trusted. May was so confident before her snap election that she ran a presidential campaign all about 'strong and stable' May. This massively backfired. Rather than finding her strong and stable, voters found her weak and wobbly, not to mention unfeeling towards those most harmed by the austerity she and cronies imposed for almost a decade.

May has only become less popular since her arrogant election. However, the fact that the Tories haven't made a credible attempt to oust her suggests the party can't think of anybody likely to win public confidence or an election. For reasons I listed previously, Boris is too toxic, and Jacob Rees-Mogg has all the toxicity but none of the faux clown 'charisma' that grabs media attention.

The Tories therefore are in a precarious position. They can oust May and end up with either a Labour victory or a coalition that would stall Brexit. The other option for the Tory Party is to pretend, as they did during May's cringeworthy conference speech, that all is well -- and hope the country buys that. Given that voters didn't buy it when May was at her peak, they are unlikely to buy it now.

Whatever the Tories do, things seem likely to fall apart. This is the inevitable consequence of building a house on rotten foundations. No amount of blue gloss will prevent inevitable collapse. The selfish individualism they preach cannot hold the party together, let alone society.