I'm A Tory Member, And Right Now Our Party Is A Laughing Stock.

Johnson has lost his majority, and his nerve. What he and all moderate members like me need is a drastic change of course, writes Ed Shackle.
Press Association
Press Association

My party is a laughing stock, and needs to change.

As a general rule, we Conservatives don’t ‘do’ public protest. We don’t usually wave banners, chant slogans, or march through the streets demanding change. As an activist with Our Future, Our Choice, I’ve found the task of mobilising young Tories to be about as easy as a Johnson family Christmas dinner.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday evening I found myself outside CCHQ with about twenty card-carrying young Conservatives. We were holding banners, we were chanting slogans, and we had marched there in unison. We disagreed on many issues, including Brexit, but we were all agreed that the Johnson premiership is an unqualified (read into that adjective what you will) disaster.

The whole country knows it. Wherever he goes, Mr Johnson is met with scorn, and he no longer has the charm, energy, or self-belief to respond with his usual bluster. A recent viral clip showed him shaking hands with a member of the public who asked him to “please, leave my town.” The Boris Johnson of three months ago might have laughed it off, or made some witty repartee. All our current PM was able to muster was “I will, very soon.” This, not the bill forcing him to ask for an extension from the EU, is the real language of surrender.

Tory moderates are losing hope. Our party has shackled itself to the narrow result of a three-year-old referendum whose mandate grows weaker with every passing day. Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party seems to dictate our political agenda at least as much as Dominic Cummings. Competent, principled MPs can see the writing on the wall, and are voting with their consciences – in some cases jumping before they are pushed.

Johnson has lost his majority, and his nerve. What he needs, what all moderate members need, is a drastic change of course. Here’s what I propose.

Firstly, fire Dominic ‘Svengali’ Cummings. He’s not a genius, his blog is evidence enough of that (if you don’t have the time or tinfoil to read it, check out this excellent analysis). He’s not even a Conservative; by his own admission he’s never been a member of any political party. So why is he permitted to stalk the corridors of No 10, firing young civil servants drive-by style, presumably while ranting about martial arts, space programs and OODA loops? He’s a relic, hired only to cement Johnson’s Leave credentials, which are in tatters anyway.

Secondly, offer amnesty to all the MPs whose whip has been removed. When they were kicked out, it was a sign to members like myself that we were no longer welcome or relevant in our party. And, aside from the obvious image problem, it meant that Johnson himself was responsible for the loss of his majority. I can’t think of a single prime minister who has scored such a jaw-dropping own goal.

Thirdly, abandon the idea of proroguing parliament. This plan, which has more than a whiff of the Cummings-brand tactical genius about it, effectively forced all opposition to Johnson together. Rather than ‘divide and conquer’, Johnson seems to be following the novel tactic of ‘unify and lose’, which is only marginally less catchy than it is effective.

Finally, Johnson has to come clean and ask the public whether they still, with the benefit of hindsight, want Brexit. It’s clear to everyone that he isn’t capable of negotiating a new deal, and just as clear that he’s not even trying. Ken Clarke’s forensic analysis of his plan in the Commons was succinct and almost certainly accurate: “Leave with no deal... Have a quick election, wave a Union Jack and then we will sort out the bumps that will come when we have left”.

Those “bumps” are the concerns of millions of people. Here’s a statistic that shocked me: almost a third of all children in the UK live in poverty. Let that sink in for a moment. One third. Inflicting an economic shock greater than the 2008 crash upon those children, and millions more vulnerable people in the UK, is unthinkable.

It’s most likely too late for Johnson. But he doesn’t have to be remembered as an irredeemable monster. If he abandons the senseless pursuit of a No Deal Brexit and consults the public in the form of a referendum on the issue, he may, just, go down as a statesman who held his nerve, saved his party, and, most importantly, did the right thing.

Ed Shackle is a Conservative member and activist with Our Future Our Choice


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