It wasn’t that long ago that I was hoping for a split in the Conservative Party. I hoped that the Brexiteer/right-wing part of it would win, and as a result of that a lot of the soft centrists squishes would leave. (Part of the appeal of Boris Johnson as a new leader was that the squishes were threatening to quit the party if he became leader – which is exactly what we wanted.)
I thought this mainly because there were some important advantages in taking over the Conservative party, rather than forming a new party. Some of these were:
(1) The Conservative Party brand was worth at least 25-30 points regardless of who was behind the wheel.
(2) The Conservative Party has money.
(3) The Party has a huge network of dedicated and knowledgeable activists.
(4) The Party also has large databases of relevant information.
Splitting off to form a new party was therefore going to put you way off the pace, because of all these hard-won advantages the Party structure gives to those who control it. But now those hard-won advantages have been flushed down the toilet within a few months. The party has become so toxic so quickly that all those former advantages no longer apply:
(1) The Conservative name is now mud, and is sinking fast. Having ‘Conservative’ after your name is now likely to mean that you cannot win any sort of election.
(2) The Conservative Party money has completely dried up. No-one is donating anything to them any more. The Brexit Party, on the other hand, has money flooding into it in great washes.
(3) The Conservative Party’s activists are basically going on strike. Most of them will no longer campaign for the party. Many of them will quit and join the Brexit Party.
(4) The Party still has the large databases, but a lot of that information is going to become quickly outdated. Also, I expect a lot of it will find its way to the Brexit Party.
So rather than the Conservative Party being a brand worth taking over – this is how Cameron and Osborne talked – it’s now a brand that one should want to ditch as quickly as possible. It’s fast becoming the Betamax of the modern age. No, worse than that. It’s like land that’s been discovered to be filled with toxic chemicals, and lingering radiation, and Japanese knotweed. No-one wants it any more. The door has been opened for a new non-PC, pro-Brexit party, and Farage has strolled through.
Of course, things could change if the Brexiteers do eventually get control of the Party. Perhaps the activists will come back. Perhaps the money will start coming in again. But I doubt enough of that would happen to save it. The point of no return has been reached, and Conservatives are now – finally – after all these years of being the great survivors, looking like the Woolworths of politics.