The Conservatives’ current head-in-the-sand mentality reminds me a lot of what happens sometimes when people are in a club, and the club becomes so big and important in their lives that everything is measured against it, and success means doing well in the club. If you become president of the club, for example, then you consider that the pinnacle of your life, and you think you’re a great success — even if that club has ceased to matter to most other people in the outside world. The club is your milieu, and nothing outside it matters very much.
That’s the impression I get with the Conservative leadership candidates. It’s all about doing well within the world of the club, and very little to do with how that club is doing in the rest of the world. Even Rory Stewart’s walkabouts into ‘real world’ territory are all about positioning himself within the club.
(And the ‘club’ here isn’t even the Conservative Party in general. It doesn’t include the membership, and certainly not the voters. It’s the MPs, and the support staff. Even the civil service and the press lobby are more a part of this club than the party members.)
The only outside thing that can matter in such cases is if it’s a sports club, and you have this traditional rivalry with another club, a rivalry that outdoes everything else you do, and even if your club’s results have been tanking for a long time, it doesn’t matter if the other club is also tanking by just as much, or more. Glory is maintained because Yesterday’s Heroes United are still ahead of Yesterday’s Heroes City.
Consider, for example, this tweet after the EU elections from the chairman of the Conservative Party:
We knew this would be a difficult night for @Conservatives – people want us to deliver Brexit as quickly as possible. We must. Thank you to all our brilliant hard working candidates.
Shocking results for Labour, going backwards after 9 years in opposition.
— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonLewis) May 26, 2019