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Westlake Legal Group > Jo Swinson MP

WATCH: “Corbyn is not fit to be Prime Minister,” says Swinson

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Sarah Ingham: The proper place to call the government to account is not the courts, but the ballot box

Dr Sarah Ingham is a member of Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham Conservative Association.

“We’re not at court to ask the court to jail Boris Johnson.”

Another day, another legal action by Joanna Cherry – this time to require the Prime Minister to comply with the so-called Benn Act and seek an extension to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.  Despite her denial, the prospect of the Downing Street One being banged up is probably the only part of the process that most of the electorate can relate to.

‘Justiciable.’ Less than a month ago many voters are likely to have googled or reached for the dictionary to check the exact definition. Thanks to Cherry and more than 70 other MPs dragging judges into the toxic swamp that is politics today, the electorate is now aware it means ‘subject to trial in a court of law’.

In the past few weeks, voters have been subjected to an unexpected crash-course in legalese and constitutional law, as they panted to keep up with a dizzying tour through the UK’s various courts. Judges from Scotland’s Court of Session (both Inner House and Outer House) and England’s High Court all had their say on whether they should have a say on the prorogation.

Finally, the Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled the suspension of Parliament unlawful, to the delight all those involved in the legal challenge to the Government’s decision.

Deservedly triumphant was Cherry, who in late July got the process underway in the Scottish courts. It can be assumed that recourse to the law is the default option for a senior member of the legal profession. And as MP for Edinburgh South West and the SNP’s Justice and Home Affairs spokesman, Cherry’s decision to seek legal remedy north of the border is understandable. It’s her home turf.

By September 4th, however, another 78 people had jumped on the Prorogation legal bandwagon that Joanna Cherry had set in motion, including some 70 MPs. Despite being described by Lady Hale as a ‘cross party group’, none was a Conservative or a member of the DUP. Most were Labour – but few, if any, seem to represent one of its estimated 148 Leave-supporting constituencies.

With Jo Swinson and Plaid’s Liz Saville Roberts on board, the First Cherry Case gathered together many who back the Remain Alliance. In addition to Ms Cherry, 10 were from the SNP’s cohort of 35 MPs, while almost 20 of the Labour MPs represent London seats.

Among the capital’s MPs who sought legal remedy north of the border were Andrew Slaughter and Emma Dent-Coad. As MPs for Hammersmith and for Kensington, both a Number 9 bus ride away from England’s High Court, they bring to mind those soon-to-be ex-wives from overseas who jet into London, the world’s divorce capital for the world’s wealthiest. Why are MPs elected to English constituencies not making their case in English courts?

If the first Cherry Case had truly just been about unraveling a knotty constitutional conundrum rather than trying to stymie the Prime Minister’s Leave strategy, it would have helped the legitimacy optics if it had been genuinely cross party, like Parliamentary Select Committees. It might not have got underway back in July within days of Boris Johnson’s barnstorming inaugural performance as Prime Minister.

It will be instructive to see which other MPs, if any, join the Second Cherry Case. If our elected representatives really want the public to keep faith in a politically neutral judiciary, they have no business involving judges in Brexit, the most contentious of all political issues.

As litigious MPs have sought remedy in the courts in the past month, voters have been reduced to being mere viewers of the latest soap on daytime TV: the Prorogation was Crown Court for political anoraks, or Judge Judy with Lady Hale.

Experts in constitutional law will be kept busy working out the implications of recent judicial meddling, which has torn apart the ancient fabric of Britain’s constitutional arrangements. Meanwhile, when it comes to Parliament and stymying, prorogation isn’t quite in the forefront of the minds of some 17.4 million voters. The prospect of Johnson in Belmarsh is about the only bit of light relief for the electorate, growing increasingly fed up as democracy is denied.

Elected MPs should be the most jealous guardians of that democracy, ever ready to assert the rights of Parliament over the Executive. But they should not be outsourcing the voters’ job to judges. The proper place to call the government to account is not the courts, but the ballot box.

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Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit

Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster. For more information about his work, visit www.lordashcroft.com and www.lordashcroftpolls.com.

The Conservative Party conference that opens today takes place at a more volatile and unpredictable time than any previous gathering I can remember. My new research, including an 8,000-sample poll, helps to make sense of what is going on by showing what the voters themselves make of the unfolding drama.

The Brexit Saga, part 94

When asked what they would most like to happen with Brexit, nearly eight in ten Conservative Leave voters choose Boris Johnson’s position of leaving the EU on 31 October with or without a deal.

However, only 32 per cent of them think this is the most likely outcome. One in five of them think we will leave after the current deadline, and nearly a quarter believe we will end up remaining in the EU. Overall, 36 per cent back the Prime Minister’s policy, including six in ten 2017 Conservatives, nearly seven in ten Leave voters overall, and more than half of Labour Leavers. A further 15 per cemt said they would prefer to leave with a good deal even if this meant waiting beyond October, and nearly four in ten – including three quarters of remainers and just over half of Tory remainers – said they would like to see the UK remain in the EU.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.44.49 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Those who currently say they are most inclined to vote for the Brexit Party at the next election are both the most likely to want to leave on 31 October (85 per cent) and the least likely to think this will happen (31 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.47.43 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Most Conservatives, including two thirds of Tory Leavers, think that if no Brexit deal has been reached by parliament’s deadline of 19 October, the Prime Minister should refuse to ask for an extension to Article 50 and continue with his policy of leaving at the end of the month. Six in ten Leave voters say this, as do three quarters of those who currently say they are most likely to vote for the Brexit Party.

However, all groups including Conservative Leavers were more likely to say he should ask for an extension as required by parliament than that he should resign rather than comply with the new law.

No-deal, or Labour and Corbyn?

If the only two options available were leaving the EU with no deal or a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, 48 per cent would choose a no-deal Brexit and 35 per cent a Corbyn-led government.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.48.33 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Two thirds of Conservative Remain voters said they would choose no-deal over Corbyn, as did a majority of Labour Leave voters. Just over six in ten of all Remain voters said they would rather have a Corbyn government than a no-deal Brexit.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.48.48 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Just under four in ten voters think that if Jeremy Corbyn won an election while the UK was still in the EU, his government would hold a second referendum on Brexit. A further 28 per cent say they think he would cancel Brexit altogether, and one voter in five says they don’t know what he would do – including the same proportion of those who currently say they are most likely to vote Labour at the next election. Most Labour-inclined voters think a Corbyn government would hold a second referendum; only 14 per cent he would achieve a better Brexit deal than the one currently on offer.

Dealing with Brexit in the right way topped the list of the most important issues facing the country as a whole, with 62 per cent naming it among the top three. It was followed by the NHS (53 per cent), crime and the economy (both 25 per cent), then immigration and the environment and climate change (both 21 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.49.14 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

However, when we asked what mattered most to people themselves and their families, Brexit fell to third place, behind the cost of living and the NHS. Only four in ten named Brexit among their top three priorities in this respect.

Brexit and the Union

Following my recent polls on Scottish independence and Irish unification, I found just under half of English and Welsh voters saying they would be sorry to see Scotland leave the UK if it chose to do so in a referendum. Remain voters (65 per cent) were more likely to say this than leavers (35 per cent), and Labour voters (58 per cent) more likely than Conservatives (43%).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.55.42 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   A slightly smaller proportion of voters in Britain as a whole (40 per cent) said they would be sorry to see Northern Ireland leave the UK, with more than one in three saying they wouldn’t mind either way.

Asked what they would choose to do if it were not possible to leave the EU and keep England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together in the United Kingdom, just over half of voters said they would keep the UK together in its present form.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-21.56.09 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP

Nearly one in three said they would rather go ahead with Brexit, and a further 15 per cent said they didn’t know what they would choose. However, the majority of 2017 Tories, six in ten Leave voters and eight in ten of those who currently lean towards the Brexit Party said they would choose leaving the EU over keeping the UK together.

Parties and leaders

Boris Johnson is chosen as the best Prime Minister by 43 per cent, compared to 24 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn; one in three voters say they don’t know. Conservative Remain voters prefer Johnson by 59 per cent  to 4 per cent, with 37 per cent undecided.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.00.33 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Labour Leave voters also prefer Johnson, by 43 per cent to 23 per cent, as do nine out of ten of those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 European Parliament election.

Forced to choose between a Conservative government led by Johnson and a Labour government under Prime Minister Corbyn, voters choose Johnson and the Tories by 56 per cent to 44 per cent. Conservative Remain voters do so by 87 per cent to 13 per cent. Labour Leave voters also prefer a Johnson-led Tory government by 52 per cent to 48 per cent; Euro election Brexit Party voters do so by 96 per cent to 4 per cent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.00.41 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked how positively or negatively they feel about the parties and leaders, voters overall rate Johnson slightly ahead of his rivals and the Conservative Party itself. Labour Leave voters rate the Prime Minister higher than both Corbyn and Nigel Farage. He also receives a higher score from his own party’s 2017 voters than both Corbyn and Jo Swinson.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.03.19 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Tory leavers gave the Conservative Party a higher score than Tory remainers, while among Labour voters the Labour Party received a higher score among remainers than leavers.

When we asked which attributes they thought most important in a political party, those currently planning to vote Conservative were most likely to mention being “willing to take tough decisions for the long term” Labour-leaning voters prioritised “representing the whole country, not just some types of people,” while those currently intending to vote Lib Dem chose “having the right priorities for the country.” For those saying they are most likely to vote for the Brexit Party, the most important attribute was that they “will do what they say.”

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.08.12 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   In practice, few voters thought any of the positive attributes listed applied to each of the parties. The Conservatives scored best on being willing to take tough decisions for the long term (though only 26 per cent thought this was true of them), Labour on wanting to help ordinary people get on in life (27 per cent), the Brexit Party on being clear about what they stand for (27 per cent) and the Lib Dems on being united (18 per cent) and clear about what they stand for (also 18 per cent).

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.12.12 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   The next general election

Rather than ask how they would vote in an election tomorrow, we asked people how likely they were to vote for each party at the next election on a 100-point scale. 2017 Conservatives were the most likely to say they would stick with their party next time (64/100), though Tory leavers were more likely to say this than Tory remainers.

For 2017 Labour voters, the average declared likelihood of voting Labour again was just 49/100. Conservative Leave voters put their likelihood of voting Tory again (67/100) more than twice as high as their chance of voting for the Brexit Party (33/100). Labour Leave voters considered themselves slightly more likely to switch to the Brexit Party than to the Tories.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.12.25 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Those who voted for the Brexit Party in the 2019 Euro elections put their likelihood of doing so again at a general election slightly below the chance that they would vote Conservative.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.17.08 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked if there were any parties they would never vote for at a general election, 43 per cent named the Brexit Party. This included a quarter of 2017 Conservatives, but only 10 per cent of Conservative Leave voters. Labour was second on the list, being ruled out by two thirds of 2017 Tories but only 22 per cent of Lib Dems. just over half of Conservative Remain voters ruled out switching to Labour, and only 11 per cent of them said they would never vote Lib Dem. Though just over half of Labour voters said they would never vote Tory, this was only true of 40 per cent of Labour leavers.

The election mapped

Finally, using factor analysis we created a “map” of the 2019 general election which shows the multiple fronts on which the parties will fight when the election is finally called.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-09-28-at-22.19.41 Lord Ashcroft: What my new poll of 8000 voters tells us about the country, the parties – and Brexit ToryDiary Party Conferences Opinion Pollster Opinion Polls Nigel Farage MEP Liberal Democrats Labour Jo Swinson MP Jeremy Corbyn MP Conservatives Conservative Party Conference Brexit Party Brexit Boris Johnson MP   The map shows how different issues, attributes, personalities and opinions interact with one another. The closer the plot points are to each other the more closely related they are. For example, it shows how the Conservatives are competing in the same territory as the Brexit Party, and that the Brexit Party’s vote is closer to the centre of gravity of Tory support than UKIP’s has been in recent years, while in the Euro elections Change UK were competing largely in Lib Dem territory.

It also shows how closely party support is related to various policy priorities and important party attributes, with those closer to the Conservative and Brexit parties prizing willingness to take tough decisions, and those looking for a party that stands for fairness or wanting to help ordinary people get on in life are closer to Labour and Lib Dem terrain.

Full details of the research can be found at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

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Iain Dale: Beyond Westminster, Johnson’s stock with the public remains high

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio and is a commentator for CNN.

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Contempt for the Labour leader is no substitute for the hard work of showing why his policies are wrong

The Labour Conference is going even worse than expected. Kevin Schofield, editor of PoliticsHome, yesterday afternoon posted on Twitter the comments of a Labour MP after the Brexit votes:

“We look like a chaotic, scruffy, angry, deluded and dangerous rabble. We hate success, hard work, intelligence and wealth. We like mediocrity, laziness and irresponsibility. We aren’t sure what we think about the biggest crisis facing the country since the war. We are chanting, cult-like, the name of a leader who has a public approval rating of -65. Why would anyone vote Labour? We deserve everything coming to us.”

So morale among moderate Labour MPs, which is the majority of them, could be better. But it would be unfair to blame this all on Jeremy Corbyn, with his public approval rating of -65. He has been put in a very difficult position by Brexit, where the pro-Remain views of most of his MPs and members conflict not just with his own long-established, albeit in recent times unexpressed support for Leave, but with the views of several million Leave-supporting Labour voters.

Whoever was leading the Labour Party would find this conundrum hard to resolve, and Boris Johnson, with his insistence on leaving with or without a deal by the end of October, has made the problem harder.

For as Charles Moore suggested in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister has set a trap for his opponents. By treating October 31st as a serious deadline, he “has driven many of them to reveal their true colours as Remainers instead of keeping up the pretence that they just want a good deal”.

Jo Swinson, the inexperienced new leader of the Lib Dems, plunged straight into that trap, adopting a far more definitive Remain policy than was needed, one which appalled some of her older colleagues and will make life harder for her party’s candidates in areas such as the West Country.

Corbyn has been wily enough not to plunge into the Johnson trap. He can be mocked for the ambiguity of his policy on Europe, but there is also a certain hard-headedness to what he has done.

The Labour leader is not trying to compete on Europe with the LibDems – on that, they will always be able to outbid him. But he reckons the electoral demand for old-fashioned socialism is higher than many of those who scorn him care to realise.

In the 2017 general election he was proved right about that. Contempt for Corbyn is no substitute for the hard work of showing why his policies are wrong, and addressing the discontents to which he claims socialism is the answer.

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Nick Hargrave: As a Tory moderate, I’ve been tempted to give up on Johnson’s Conservatives. But here’s why I’m sticking with them.

Nick Hargrave is a former Downing Street special adviser, where he worked under both David Cameron and Theresa May. He now works at Portland, the communications consultancy.

For all the talk of a new age of populism, many senior Conservatives seem to have fallen for that very Westminster myth of a binary culture war. That the British people fall into two neat camps of Leave and Remain. That both sides foam at the mouth with passionate intensity for these causes. That the country is fraying through this division. That we’re angry and we all hate each other. And that no political party in this country can ever win power again unless it squarely picks a side and tells the other to get stuffed.

Now, of course there is a values divide in our country today on the issue of identity. But if you really think that this trumps everything else in the daily lives of the British people then, frankly, you need to get out a bit more. There is a reason why Holly Willoughby, Gareth Bale and Ed Sheeran have much bigger social media followings than Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson. Only a few years ago, we used to say that the average voter spent just a few minutes each week thinking about politics. Now we argue that it is all-consuming.

Go to any focus group right now, or better still talk to an ordinary voter, and you will find that bemusement trumps bellicosity almost every time. Westminster has gone mad, but most people in the country just want this nightmare to be over – and for politicians to get back to tangible, relatable, deliverable, aspirational, outcomes-based policies that help them and their families live a better life.

We won an election on this platform in 2015 a mere 13 months before that supposed turning point referendum. It is crackers that Conservative MPs are spending more time now talking about free ports and SPS checks on agri-foods – than they are about making childcare cheaper for the parents of zero to two-year olds.

If you are a Tory – an anti-No Deal MP, a Cameron-era member or a wavering Lib-Dem switcher – who yearns for a return to this moderate normality then there are more reasons to be optimistic about the future of the party than you might think. The party leadership has done a good job of trying to alienate you since the summer with their words and deeds. But for people still weighing up whether to stay or go elsewhere, I still believe there is a clear case for sticking with the Conservative Party in the years ahead.

First of all, contrary to appearances, the Prime Minster is actually on your side of the argument. He backed Leave in 2016 because he wanted to position himself with the party membership for the future – rather than because of a neuralgic obsession about our customs relationship with the EU. He ran a leadership campaign aimed squarely at the party’s Brexit-centric voting shareholders because he knew that was the only route to Number 10. But as well as being a political opportunist, Boris Johnson has always had an intuitive grasp of the public mood. As said recently, once we leave the European Union he wants to focus with “an absolute laser like precision on the domestic agenda”.

These are not the words of a man who is looking to spend the next decade grappling with dramatic divergence or Government by Operation Yellowhammer. He knows there aren’t very many votes in it. He patently wants to get a withdrawal deal done, go to the country with a sensible retail domestic platform, win a decent majority  – and then use that mandate to put trade talks in the second tier, minimally divergent in the short-term box they belong.

All the while he will focus on schools, hospitals, housing and crime as domestic priorities instead. For those who say this is impossible given the pressure from his backbenchers – Canada good, Norway bad – I would only say that it is amazing what a healthy majority can do for your powers as Prime Minister. And who knows what the EU itself will look like in five years’ time.

Second, the prospect of leaving the European Union with a deal by October 31 – or shortly after with a brief technical extension- is under-priced at the moment.  It is the least politically difficult for Johnson of all of his options now.

The UK and the EU27 are also less far apart on the substance than suits either side to say. There is a way through on the much obsessed backstop that puts lipstick on the original proposal of limited future divergence in the Irish Sea. So much of the reason that this was a non-starter for Theresa May was that she knew she would never fight another election and her future was bound with the favour of the DUP. That is not true for Boris Johnson in quite the same way. That is before you get to the logical argument that Northern Ireland’s history since its construction in 1921 has been based on evolving and imaginative constitutional flex – that recognises the profoundly unique circumstances of the past.

Third, with a bit of strategic direction in the 2020s, it is perfectly possible to make the Conservative Party’s membership more reflective of the country at large. This in turn has an impact on what front rank politicians in the party end up saying and doing. Boris Johnson beat Jeremy Hunt by a margin of 45,497 votes in the last leadership election. The numbers involved are not enormous. If you want the next candidate of moderation to overturn that deficit then that is the equivalent of recruiting 70 odd supporters per constituency in England, Scotland and Wales in the intervening period. At £2.09 a month by direct debit, with minimal obligations for boots on the ground activism, that is a pretty sellable insurance policy for the future of your country.

Finally – and simply – the perfect should never be the enemy of the just about bearable in a first-past-the-post electoral system. This is not a time to take any chances. If you don’t think Jeremy Corbyn running the fifth largest economy in the world is a good idea then your vote at the next election should be exercised wisely.

It would be disingenuous to suggest that I agree with everything the Conservative leadership have said and done in recent weeks. It would also be dishonest to claim that the thought of voting Liberal Democrat did not flicker momentarily as we’ve veered towards knuckle-head, pound-shop Orbanism – rather than the finest traditions of Conservatism. But for all that noise, I am not sure the task of recapturing those traditions is as out of grasp as commonly supposed. That’s why I’ll be voting Conservative at the next general election and retaining my membership; I’d thoroughly recommend you do too.

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Daniel Hannan: Cameron maligns Brexiteers because he misunderstands them

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Everyone agrees that David Cameron made a terrible blunder when he called the referendum. Everyone, that is, except the country at large.

Journalists and politicians, civil servants and diplomats, subscribers to the Economist and the Financial Times, half-clever readers who get their opinions downstream from the Davos schmoozefest – all these people tell each other that the Brexit referendum was the worst mistake any British leader has made since the loss of the Americas. All forget how widespread the desire for a referendum was in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats, who now say that Cameron’s decision was “unforgiveable”, were demanding an In/Out referendum long before he was. Jo Swinson, along with the rest, told us as long ago as 2008 that only “a referendum on the major issue of in or out of Europe” would do. By 2013, plenty of Labour and Conservative MPs were taking the same line, largely in response to pressure from their constituents. There is no dishonour here: it is how a democracy is supposed to work.

Oddly, Cameron appears to have adopted the world-view of his critics. He defends his decision to call a referendum, but he does so…well, defensively. The line he takes in his memoirs is, in effect, that the referendum was forced on him by a combination of public demand and EU inflexibility. He had no choice but to go to the country, though he bitterly regrets the result. He reveals that he phoned EU leaders, as well as Barack Obama, to apologise for the way people voted. He still beats himself up about the whole thing.

For what it’s worth, I have always felt the former Prime Minister gets a tough rap. We forget the state the country was in when he took over: Gordon Brown had left us with a higher deficit than Greece’s. Cameron brought us back from the brink calmly and unfussily. Since stepping down, he has behaved with dignity – unlike, it must be said, every other living former Prime Minister. True, the timing of his memoirs is unfortunate, but that is hardly his fault: Brexit was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

One thing, though, leaps out of Cameron’s book. He never really got Euroscepticism or Eurosceptics. He sees opposition to European amalgamation as an eccentricity verging on a mild mental disorder. The idea that it might matter to people more than, say, party loyalty leaves him genuinely nonplussed: “Michael [Gove] had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends and supporters,” he writes, in unfeigned bewilderment.

Gove did indeed pay a high price, because he was convinced that Britain would be better off outside the EU. He acted, in other words, from principle. But Cameron can’t understand how anyone could feel that way, and so puts it down to some sort of character flaw.

Similarly, he writes of the present Prime Minister: “Boris had become fixated on whether we could pass legislation that said UK law was ultimately supreme over EU law.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to him that this question – the essence of what it means to be an independent country – might genuinely matter. Johnson, we are invited to assume, cannot truly have cared about what Cameron describes as the “bugbear of the most evangelical Eurosceptics”. The only explanation for his behaviour, the former leader implies, is careerism.

In fact, Johnson – a long-standing critic of Euro-federalism – was tortured by the sovereignty question. I know, because I spent much of 2015 trying to persuade him to come out for Leave. Never once did he give any indication that he was weighing up which side would win. On the contrary, he kept coming back to the issue of legal primacy. If we could settle that then, as far as he was concerned, we could put up with the rest. But if we couldn’t, then staying in the EU would mean, over time, becoming a European province.

I am pretty sure that, if Cameron had been able to address this issue – the issue that had been the sticking point for Tony Benn, Enoch Powell, Hugh Gaitskell and the other Eurosceptic Long Marchers – he would have won the support, not just of Johnson and Gove, but of the majority of the electorate. But he could never see the problem. He couldn’t – and he still can’t – believe that anyone is genuinely bothered by what he sees as an absurd and abstruse abstraction. No wonder he feels hurt.

Sadly, in his annoyance, he reruns the referendum campaign, angrily accusing the other side of dishonesty. And here, I’m afraid, he diminishes himself. After all, we can all remember that, right up until February 2016, he was solemnly declaring that, if he didn’t get the reforms he wanted, he would recommend a Leave vote. Now he says that will always blame himself for the “enormity” of withdrawal. At least he uses that word correctly, to mean dreadfulness rather than enormousness. But how are we to square that maudlin statement with his previous assurances that he would lead us out if he couldn’t tweak our membership terms? One of the two statements must be untrue.

We all have self-serving biases, of course. We all give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When Cameron looks back at his previous promises, he doubtless sees them, not as lies, but as part of a standard political campaign. Here, for example, is how he explains his decision to resign as Prime Minister: “Why had I promised I would stay on if we lost? If I had admitted that there was any chance of my stepping down if remain lost, I would have jeopardised the referendum entirely.”

To which I say, “fair enough”. There is a difference between putting the best spin on your intentions during a campaign and calculated mendacity. The word “lie” should, in my view, be reserved for bigger offences than Cameron’s. It’s just that, with such a record, he should think twice before using the word “lie” about what was very obviously an honest mistake in one interview by Penny Mordaunt about whether Britain could veto Turkish accession.

More significant is the question of why he didn’t manage to get a better deal from the EU. This is the question that Remainers almost invariably avoid.

Had Cameron come back with any retrieval of power or, indeed, with a sovereignty amendment of the sort that Gove and Johnson had wanted, he would have won the referendum. But the EU was readier to lose its second financial contributor than to allow any diminution of its federal aspirations.

That inflexibility was the proximate cause of Brexit. It helps explain why, after the vote, it proved so hard for the two sides to agree on a common-market-not-common-government type of association. It remains the biggest barrier to a deal. Yet, bizarrely, it is hardly ever discussed. Even now, many Remainers would rather rail against the other side than face up to the reality of what the EU is turning into. The electorate as a whole, though, knows better.

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WATCH: “A Liberal Democrat government will revoke Article 50 on day one” – Swinson

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The limits of the LibDems

The main electoral impact of the Liberal Democrats in modern times has been to help deny the Conservatives a working Commons majority.  They have done so regardless of whether the latter have been in government or opposition.

In 1974, the Conservatives were in government, the Liberal vote surged, Edward Heath failed to win a majority and Jeremy Thorpe refused to enter a coalition with him.  In 2010, the Tories were in opposition, the LibDem vote rose slightly, David Cameron failed to gain a majority – and Nick Clegg took his party into coalition.

It is significant that sweeping LibDem gains haven’t tended to harm Labour.  In 1997, the party gained 25 seats, taking its total to 34.  In the same election, Tony Blair won a landslide.  He and Paddy Ashdown had crushed the Conservatives in a pincer movement.

The tumultuous effects of Brexit have resuscitated the LibDems and are reviving their prospects.  Coalition nearly killed them, at least at Westminster.  But the EU referendum has given them a new lease of life.  Once again, it is most evident in areas which otherwise return Conservative MPs or councils.

Out of their 14 MPs in England and Wales, all those elected as Liberal Democrats in 2017 had the Tories in second place.  In the local elections last spring, all their councils gained were in yellow/blue areas.  Their revival tends to be concentrated in areas in which they flourished between roughly the late Thatcher and late Cameron eras.

This is the context in which to viewed their latest shift on Brexit, the opportunities it is bringing them, and the defections it is gaining them.  The shift to revocation takes place in the context of their competiton with Labour.  The more red votes the party can squeeze in blue/yellow marginals, the more seats it is likely to win.

So as Labour gradually commits itself more explicitly to Remain, to be delivered through the medium of a second referendum, the more the LibDems must try to outflank it.  Junking the referendum and going straight for revocation is the obvious means of doing so.

The ploy carries risks for Jo Swinson’s party.  Revocation may play well in South-West London or university-type seats.  But it is hard to see how it will be a plus in Brexity South West of England.  Swinson seems to be going for broke in the Remain heartlands of 2016: the capital itself and what might loosely be called the greater South East.  Plus Scotland.

In her perfect world, the Liberal Democrats will sweep up London seats in which they have not been previously competitive.  Hence Chuka Umanna’s flight from Streatham towards the Cities of London and Westminster.  She may also be hoping to have a crack at Labour in some of its north London constituencies.  The prospect is agitating pro-EU Labour MPs such as Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry to push harder for Remain.

It is tempting to write off the Revocation policy.  After all, Swinson can only implement it herself with the Commons majority that she won’t win.  That clip of a prosperous-looking LibDem audience whooping it up for Guy Verhofstadt’s imperalist ravings won’t impress Revocation-sceptic centrist voters.

But the shift will have an effect on the conversation at Westminster.  Were Swinson to win that mythical majority, Revocation would be one thing: she would have won the right to implement it, fair and square.  But the policy will be quite another if Brexit doesn’t take place on October 31, and MPs begin to drift in its direction without a mandate.

That would be to flick a V-sign not only at 17 million Leave voters but the entire EU referendum result – with consequences for the stability of our already shaken politics that are potentially shattering.  Revocation in that context would be the real extremism, not No Deal, for which at least there is a mandate if necessary.

Swinson’s gambit may blow up.  It could just be that LiDem support in blue/red marginals collapses, handing the Conservatives new seats in the Midlands and North, and that these outnumber LibDem gains in the blue/yellow marginals.  Or that the Luciana Berger and Angela Smith defections to the party are the start of something bigger

Four-way politics in England and Wales complicates all these calculations, as does its equivalent north of the border: Swinson herself could lose her seat to the SNP, which took it from her 2015, before she won it back two years later.  Which reminds us that there will be more to any forthcoming general election than Brexit.

This should lead us to look at the LibDems in the round, as their conference continues today.  Coalition sobered them up, at least for a while, and provided some good Ministers: Steve Webb’s work with Iain Duncan Smith at Work and Pensions stands out.

But most of the stars of that era have either left the Commons or are leaving: Clegg, Webb, David Laws, Vince Cable.  Their successors look less impressive.  And the Tory defectors, Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimah, may not be in the Commons for much longer (and nor may the Labour ones, come to think of it.)

The LibDems have a core problem that they cannot shake off.  In local government, they may well revive further.  In the European elections, they can build on their second place won this year. In Scotland, they could conceivably govern as part of some rainbow coalition.  That is also possible in Wales, where they are currently weak.  Westminster is a different proposition.

For a lesson of the Cameron years is that first past the post sets the party up for punishment if it goes into coalition.  Doing so tends to have the effect of depressing smaller parties in any event, as Paddy Ashdown used to point out, regardless of the electoral system in question. But first past the post intensifies the effect.

Were the LibDems to go into coalition with the Conservatives again, their lefter-leaning voters would desert them.  The reverse would be true were they to go into coalition with Labour.  (The Lib/Lab pact scarcely helped the Liberals in 1979.)  In any event, a lot of LibDem support comes from protest voters.  In 2015, many of these decamped to UKIP, in defiance of any ideological consistency.

This suggests that the most durable option for the LibDems in any future hung Parliament would be confidence and supply.  It is almost impossible to imagine Swinson going into coalition with Jerermy Corbyn or Boris Johnson in any case.

No Ministerial cars; no red boxes.  No more posts as Deputy Prime Minister, or LibDem Ministers shaping government policy.  It is a grim fate for any ambitious politician to accept, but the LibDem mentality is different to that of Labour, as well as us Conservatives.  They are used to marginality, being squeezed – and the joys of irresponsible opposition. Brexit has changed much for them, but less than one might think.

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WATCH: Swinson commits the LibDems to revoking Brexit

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