One issue that hasn’t been talked about at all in this election campaign is what a loss would do to the Conservatives. I’ve said many times that the Conservative base is pretty fed up with the party, and is voting for them mainly because of Brexit, and out of fear of a hard-left Labour party. But if the Conservatives can’t even win an election with Brexit on its side, and the worst opposition it’s ever faced, and a popular, optimistic, charismatic leader, then I’d say the future for it looks bleak.
One problem with losing is that the internal battle within the Conservatives will intensify. The wets will say that ‘We lost because we went right-wing under Boris and Cummings and well-loved One Nation MPs like Amber Rudd and David Gauke were forced out’. Whereas the right-wingers will say ‘We lost because we’re still not offering an alternative to Labour, we’re just another centrist statist party spending too much money’.
I would like it if one of these factions could finally gain control of the Conservatives. If the centrist wets gain control then the rest of us could just abandon the Conservatives. If the right gains control then the Conservatives can re-emerge as a real alternative to the other parties.
But what is likely to happen is what has always happened with the Conservatives, namely a lot of in-fighting that never gets anywhere, and prevents the Conservatives from being an effective opposition, which will allow Corbyn to wreak havoc on the country.
What has propped up the two main parties for a few years now is each other — many of their voters vote for them purely to keep out the other party. You can’t tell me that all of those middle-class Labour voters are really that keen on Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. They’d probably much prefer the LibDems. It’s their irrational hatred of the Conservatives that drives them to vote Labour. It’s the same with many, many Conservative voters, who would prefer a less squishy party, but consider them the only way to keep out Labour.
That may lead you to think that many people will stay with the Conservatives as it will still be the only alternative to Labour, especially once the disaster that is a Labour government becomes clear, but I’m not so sure. If the Conservatives’s main attraction is that they keep Labour out, but they’ve failed in that role, then alternatives are going to be sought. And waiting in the wings will be Farage’s Brexit Party, newly reformed as the Reform Party.
Farage, of course, will have his own problems, most notably that if Labour win the election then a lot of people will blame him. That in itself may cost the the Reform Party a lot of support. But you’d still expect them to gain some popularity from people who want an alternative, and who see the LibDems as not an alternative, but as a distillation of the existing parties. Even if Reform got 10% support, that would sink the Tories.
But in the end it may be the hard left riding to the Conservatives’ rescue once again. By the time of the next election there’d probably be a majority desperate to kick Labour out, so assuming that Labour hasn’t rigged everything totally (votes for kids, votes for illegal immigrants, etc.), then the same old binary choice will be facing us: which party do we all go for to get rid of Labour? Do we stick with the Conservatives, or do we chuck them for some alternative?
There’s no way of predicting this is now — perhaps Reform will be brilliant and become the new sensible party within a year. Perhaps an amazing new party will spring up and captivate the right. Perhaps the LibDems will finally surge (although as Brexit will remain an issue under Labour, I wouldn’t bet on that). Perhaps the Conservatives themselves will have become a force under Johnson, bustling and bristling with energy and confidence having finally throwing off the shackles of the wets and the greens.
But perhaps – and perhaps this is more likely – it will just be business as usual, with the same old weak Conservatives limping along just ahead of their rivals, so the anti-Labour vote decides it has to be them again. So once again it would be the fear of the hard left that keeps lame One Nation Conservativism going.
Update: There’s also this worrying article from Ed West to think about:
even if the Tories do win a majority, they face serious future problems driven by demographic and social change. The sort of people who vote Tory are decreasing in number, ageing and not being replaced, while the lifestyle factors that lead people to vote for conservative parties are heavily in decline.
It has often been said that the young are dangerously Left-wing, and the received wisdom has always been that each generation becomes conservative as they grow wiser, or perhaps more jaded and cynical. Except with my age group and those younger, that isn’t true anymore; people in their 30s are not becoming more Right-wing as they get older, to quote Fr Ted; in fact, the reverse may even be happening, on both sides of the Atlantic.