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Westlake Legal Group > Liberal Democrats

James Frayne: Voters would welcome a Brexit deal. But it might harm and not help the Conservatives with working class voters.

James Frayne is Director of Public First and author of Meet the People, a guide to moving public opinion.

You can’t credibly poll how people might think or feel in the future. We can’t therefore know what the public will think if Boris Johnson secures a deal that looks vaguely similar to Theresa May’s.

But there’s been enough polling to guess. It’s reasonable to assume – hardcore Remainers aside – most voters will be so relieved it’s nearly over they’ll back a deal regardless of any friendly fire from Eurosceptics or Unionists. The Conservatives’ conference slogan – ‘Get Brexit Done’ – perfectly summed up what most people think about the whole thing. It also seems reasonable to assume most people would be exasperated and angry with those standing in the way of a deal – and there’ll likely be little interest in a betrayal narrative from eurosceptic purists.

The next stage in the electoral cycle writes itself: Boris Johnson’s ratings rise as a Prime Minister that delivers on his word, and the Conservative Party’s ratings rise too; Jeremy Corbyn and Nigel Farage look irrelevant; and the Liberal Democrats’ position as a vehicle for disaffected middle-class Remainers is threatened as the world moves on. What do the Lib Dems stand for at that point? Amid the wreckage, Johnson at some point runs a short campaign securing a workable majority, and the Party goes back to the happy days of 2015 when it looked briefly truly ascendant.

While there’s a clear political logic to all this, delivery of a deal at least raises the prospect that the Conservative Party could become a victim of its own success on Brexit with a big chunk of its coalition. What if delivering Brexit ended up costing it working class votes?

As I’ve been arguing for the last few months here, the Conservatives’ hold on working class voters is extremely precarious. Depending on which polls you look at, the Conservatives are currently on course to secure between a third and a half of the working class vote. And working class voters have been coming over to the Party slowly for the last decade.

But they have come over overwhelmingly because of Brexit and immigration – and the Conservatives’ relative position on these issues compared to Labour. Amongst working class voters, there’s no love for the Party and there’s precious little for Boris Johnson either. The Conservatives are seen as a useful vehicle for their views on Brexit and immigration – as well as taxation and welfare. There’s no cultural affinity to those they see as “posh Tories”.

The fact is that, over the last three years, the Conservatives have talked obsessively about working class voters without doing much for them. The Conservatives’ working class strategy has amounted to little more than people saying they have one. Until Johnson became Prime Minister, the only thing the Party really did in recent times for working class voters was pledge to increase NHS spending. He has transformed the Party’s approach – as yesterday’s Queen’s Speech showed. Under him, it has pledged further funds to the NHS, schools and the police, and promised to end automatic early release of prisoners and paved the way for a points-based immigration system. It has also promised new funds for towns.

This is all progress and should not be under-estimated. But imagine that Brexit was “done”, would these things be enough to keep working class voters onside? Would they actually think that, now Brexit’s done and immigration back under control, that they can return to their natural home in the Labour Party? After all, Labour will be chucking a lot more cash about even than the Conservatives.

We don’t know the answer to this, and we won’t until Brexit is resolved. My sense is that, as long as Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party, even a halfway decent campaign on working class priorities will carry a big proportion of the working class vote.

However, my sense is also that the Party has done so little of recent practical benefit to working class voters, that Brexit and immigration done, a change anytime soon in the Labour leader to someone even vaguely moderate and competent would be a disaster for the Conservatives. The announcements that Johnson has made recently have been spot on, but they’ve come so late in the day there’s a chance they won’t filter through in time, and certainly a big chance that nothing will be felt on the ground in working class communities.

There are two implications from all this. The first is that the Party needs to view the Queen’s Speech as being the beginning of a major campaign to create a working class base that currently doesn’t exist. Similar sorts of policy announcements must follow in coming months, and obviously above all during the election campaign.

Just as the saner parts of the Labour Party are obsessing over provincial English towns (although bizarrely they’re still threatening to raise their taxes), so the Conservatives must develop the same obsession. Amongst other things, to do this they must re-form old alliances with the business community in provincial England to help them create a credible supporter base (admittedly a longer-term goal). This will likely be their starting point for the growth of a working class activist base.

The second implication is that the Party needs to look to build bridges with the middle class Remainers that have recently left the Party (or been removed from it). With the working class vote far from assured, the Party needs all the support it can get. The Party should be thinking of policies that appeal directly to middle class professionals – childcare, workplace, personal finance – that don’t risk any interference with their messages to the working class. And there should be a pathway back for MPs like David Gauke.

Time will tell, but it could be that the high watermark of the Conservatives’ attractiveness to working class voters was the autumn of 2019 – when the Party was led by a PM that would apparently do anything to deliver Brexit, amid hostile opposition from all sides. What better rallying call to the working class than to say “vote Conservative and get Brexit done”? The Party needs to do a lot more for working class voters – and very fast – so it can say “vote Conservative because we got Brexit done”.

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Matthew Lesh: The radical neoliberal programme which can revitalise the Conservatives

Matthew Lesh is the Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute.

As the flus from last week’s Conservative Party Conference slowly fade, it is worth turning our minds back to a conference that we must never forget.

It was the autumn of 1980. The country was facing economic turmoil. Decades of Keynesianism was taking its toll with high inflation and low growth.  But there was a leader, a radical neoliberal, who refused to accept the status quo or allow the doomsters to take her off course.  “You turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning,” Margaret Thatcher told Conservative Party Conference.

Thatcher unashamedly spoke not just of policy change but creating “a new independence of spirit and zest for achievement”. She called her administration “one of the truly radical ministries of post-war Britain”.

Boris Johnson’s party conference speech last week has been lauded for its political nous: get Brexit done, and fund the NHS and other public services.

This makes a lot of political sense, particularly for the party’s ‘Go Midlands, Go North’ strategy: the plan to win northern Leave working class areas who traditionally voted Labour Party.

But Johnson’s spending is frustrating to many free marketeers, who have traditionally found their home in the Conservative Party. Boris speaks of a “dynamic enterprise culture” and the Conservative Party’s history in pioneering “free markets and privatisation”. But so far there has been little meat on the bone, while the party is giving up its reputation for fiscal conservatism by committing to big-spending plans.

Politically, this approach undermines support from economic liberals in London and the Southeast. This danger is heightened by the likes of Sam Gyimah’s defection, signalling the acceptability of the Liberal Democrats to Tory economic liberals. With the Lib Dems also winning over the likes of Chuka Umunna there’s a danger the two main parties are seen by voters to leave the centre stage to the Liberal Democrats — and leave governing alone to the scrap heap of history.

To get a strong majority, Boris needs to win both Chelsea and Fulham as well as Stoke-on-Trent. He needs to be able to hold up his economic credentials to win back Remain-voting Conservatives voters – not just give them another reason to abandon the party.

But this balancing act is nothing new. Thatcher, despite some reforms to childcare and housing subsidies, oversaw a huge increase in social spending. She declared that the NHS is “safe with us” and bragged about “enormous increases in the amount spent on social welfare to help the less fortunate”. David Cameron similarly declared that the NHS is “safe in my hands,” while cutting taxes, introducing free schools and reforming welfare.

Thatcher and Cameron balanced public spending with undertaking fundamental free market economic reform to boost the economy. To ensure the Conservative Party remains a broad coalition, it is important that Boris’ free market rhetoric is given meaning. There needs to be some meat on the bone. The Conservative Party will be much weaker if it does not have a serious economic policy offering that creates a clear distinction with Labour.

On the political left, while many may disagree with their approach and ideas, there is undeniably a radical reimagining of policy and a clear agenda: a four day work week, shutting down private schools and nationalising industry.

Some on the Right have chosen to respond to the emboldened Left by adopting parts of their agenda in the hope of placating and preventing the worst. But, as Theresa May’s premiership displays being Labour-lite and adopting policies like the energy price gap, or nanny state policies like the sugar tax, simply does not work.

The Neoliberal Manifesto, a joint project between the Adam Smith Institute and 1828 released last week at the Conservative Party Conference, presents a positive vision for Britain’s future. In the past, the word “neoliberalism” has been twisted by those seeking to manufacture a strawman on which to blame every societal ill.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Neoliberals are champions of freedom. We want government to protect and facilitate your ability to flourish; we believe in the power and ability of each individual; we believe in doing what is most effective; we are optimistic about the future; we support market intervention to address specific issues but reject paternalism; we are cosmopolitan and outward-looking to the world.

The manifesto calls for a liberal, free market approach to trade that encompasses cutting tariffs and pursuing deals based on the principle of mutual recognition. It declares that need to reform Britain’s outdated planning laws to allow for the building of more houses to fix Britain’s housing crisis. The manifesto also calls for a simpler, fairer tax system by getting rid of stamp duty and allowing capital expenditures to be expensed in full immediately.

On migration, it calls for a liberal system that brings the most talented people to our nation. On education, it explains the need for more choice. On innovation and technology, it calls for an optimistic approach defined by permissionless innovation.  It also calls for a liberal approach to drugs and personal choices, a compassionate but cost-effective approach to welfare, and addressing climate change without sinking our economy.

Many of these ideas are radical, and today can be expected to receive a mixed reception. But we think that our politicians should lead from the front, not the back. These policies are not designed with the idea of what may or may not be popular today, but rather setting the agenda for the future.

While not every action she took was immediately popular, Thatcher’s agenda transformed the country for the better and proved a politically successful formula across three general election victories. Cameron similarly won a majority after undertaking difficult decisions.

If the Government does not have an offering for people who want lower taxes and the state to live within its means, they risk unexpected losses.  Johnson can follow in the footsteps of successful leaders with his own liberal, free market agenda.

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Don’t assume that this Commons will vote for a general election

The Sunday papers are packed to the brim with speculative Brexit stories.  Boris Johnson will refuse to sign a letter to the EU requesting an extension under the terms of the Benn Act.  No, he will sign it – as indicated by the Government’s evidence to a Scottish court last week. John Bercow will become Prime Minister if Johnson loses a no confidence vote.  No, the Prime Minister will refuse to quit, and will hunker down in Number Ten.  Vicktor Orban will veto an extension in the first place, so none of this will happen.  No, he will not veto an extension.

The only point on which they agree is that the EU will not accept Johnson’s new Brexit plan.

Rather than comment on any of these claims, let us carry out an enquiry of our own.  It is usually assumed that if an extension is agreed, a general election will soon follow – whoever is Prime Minister.

That expectation should be questioned.  Consider the state of play in the Commons.

There are 288 Conservative MPs.  Let us assume that they would all vote for an election were an extension to take place.  Then add to them the ten DUP MPs.  That takes us to 298 MPs.  Then add the 18 Liberal Democrats.  That takes us to 316 MPs.  Then add the 35 SNP MPs.

That takes us to 351 MPs – more than enough to force an election were the vote to take place by simple majority, even if one is not to add to this total a few independents, such as John Mann, who is shortly to become a peer, and possibly Ian Austin and Ivan Lewis, who voted for an election on September 9.

However, any motion that the Government proposes seeking an election must, under the provisions of the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, win a two thirds majority of the whole House to take effect.  Boris Johnson has already failed to gain one twice.  He won by 298 to 56 on September 4, and by 293 to 46 on September 9.  Not enough: he needs 433 votes.

Furthermore, it is not certain that any of the other parties above will actually vote for an election when push comes to shove.

The Liberal Democrats have an incentive to vote for one once an extension is agreed, because they believe they will take seats off the Conservatives and perhaps Labour in any poll.  So have the SNP, because they think that they can take seats off the Tories, too – and win some constituencies from Labour and maybe the Liberal Democrats, too.  That’s why we added them to the Conservative adn DUP total above.

However, either party might not be prepared to back a no confidence vote if they believe that the Commons could back a second referendum – which both could prefer to an election.

The pro-Remain lobby in the Labour Party, led in effect by Keir Starmer, would presumably take that view.  So might Labour MPs who aren’t so much anti-Brexit as worried about losing their seats in an election.  That’s a lot of MPs.  So Labour might continue to abstain, as it did for both the September votes.

Then there is the Independent Group for Change.  Why should any of its MPs vote for an election, knowing that it would, in all likelihood, end their jobs and salaries?  Why, for the same reason, should any of the 21 former Conservative MPs who are without the Whip?  Why should the bulk of the remaing 14 independents?

All in all, we suspect that any extension is as likely to be followed in the Commons by a push for a second referendum as a vote for a general election.

Much is written about the possibility of Boris Johnson “squatting in Downing Street” if he loses a no confidence vote.  But perhaps the image is better applied not to one MP, but to all of them.

For were they to refuse to vote for an election, under the conditions we describe, they would effectively be squatting in the Commons: drawing their salaries; building up their pensions, and being subsidised by the taxpayer despite not doing their job (or the legislative bit of it, anyway).

They would thus become the elected equivalents of the welfare scroungers of tabloid legend – dragging the reputation of politics, party and Parliament even deeper into the mud.

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Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: The Foreign Secretary trumped by Rees-Mogg the Tory Democrat

Westlake Legal Group L1040961 Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: The Foreign Secretary trumped by Rees-Mogg the Tory Democrat ToryDiary Tory Democracy Sir Keir Starmer MP Shakespeare Michael Heseltine Michael Gove MP Lord Randolph Churchill Liberal Democrats Jeremy Corbyn MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Hong Kong Dominic Raab MP Conservative Party Conference Benjamin Disraeli



Dominic Raab entered to a brief and polite standing ovation. But could he, in his first conference speech as Foreign Secretary, change the torpid Sunday afternoon atmosphere in the hall?

Successful conference oratory does not work by politeness. It relies on being wonderfully rude, monumentally impertinent, about your opponents. Michael Heseltine is the greatest modern exponent of the style.

Raab looked around for someone to be rude about. He remarked that “we Brits” are warmly welcomed almost everywhere.

“OK, maybe not in Luxembourg.” That went down quite well. He followed it up: “I think the British people have had more than enough of EU leaders disrespecting British Prime Ministers.”

Applause. Brexit is the way to stir this audience. The Foreign Secretary veered, however, into high-mindedness, and said that in future, “our foreign policy should be guided by a clear moral compass”.

This may be true, but it did not make any hearts beat faster. He turned for a moment to attack a more powerful opponent: “We won’t look the other way, when the people of Hong Kong are beaten indiscriminately on commuter trains for exercising the right to peaceful protest.”

That too was well received. It was not, however, followed by any further jibes at the regime in Beijing.

Raab decided he would rather maintain the ancient tradition of makes jibes at the expense of the Labour Party: “There are some things even bigger than Brexit, and keeping that lot out of Downing Street is one of them.”

Applause. “And as for the Liberal Democrats,” he went on. “Neither liberal nor democratic,” the lady sitting behind me remarked. Raab said, “no one ever accused the Liberal Democrats of consistency, but when it comes to offences under the Trade Description Act, they’re guilty as charged.”

Not in the Heseltine class, but he is treading in an as yet too gingerly manner in the right direction.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, spoke with the exaggerated vigour which is required in this hall, where the sound seeps away through black curtains.

But he said nothing very memorable, and the star of the show was Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, greeted with whoops and cheers, for here at last was someone the poor bloody infantry knew would raise their spirits.

Rees-Mogg observed that “there seems to be some enthusiasm”, and suggested more of his constituents from North East Somerset must have turned up than expected.

He gave us Disraeli, Lord Randolph Churchill, Gulliver’s Travels, Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, and a picture of Jeremy Corbyn all the more damning because it was charitable: “I do not believe him to be a bad man, but he is a weak man.”

And behind Corbyn stands Sir Keir Starmer, “poised, Brutus-like, three feet back, stiletto in hand, awaiting the moment to strike”.

Here at last was the theatre of politics, based on an original script by William Shakespeare, with additional material by John Dryden, for Rees-Mogg, well into his stride by now, flung one of that poet’s most celebrated couplets at Starmer:

In friendship false, implacable in hate,
Resolved to ruin or to rule the state.

The hall loved this. Like Disraeli, and the present Prime Minister, Rees-Mogg is an exponent of Tory Democracy, that alliance between the ruling class and the working class which makes Gladstonian prigs, and their descendants, choke with moral indignation.

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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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WATCH: Lee “should be on his knees to his own constituents, begging for their forgiveness for his BETRAYAL!”

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Damian Green: Labour’s dishonest attack on us this week will only work if we narrow our appeal

Damian Green is a former First Secretary of State.  He is Chair of the One Nation Caucus and MP for Ashford.

The cover of Labour’s Conference Guide this year is full of the usual upbeat (and of course impractical) promises: “More doctors and nurses”, “Free bus passes”, “Reduced class sizes”. You only have to turn the page to find what they really want to talk about-a distortion of what today’s Conservative is about.

The Welcome to Conference message contains a familiar dishonest litany. “The impact of almost ten years of Tory austerity is clear; in work poverty, Universal Credit, NHS Funding Cuts, regional inequality, and acts of malice like scrapping free TV licenses”……”We need a Government that will work for the common good, not just to reward the rich.”

Of course it’s unfair propaganda. The new element is that Corbyn’s Labour seeks constantly to make this attack personal. They want to create an atmosphere where every individual Tory must by definition be cruel and unfeeling, as well as rich and posh. From the “Never kissed a Tory” badges to Labour MPs saying they could never be friendly with Tory colleagues, the Labour attack is a calculated part of modern culture wars. The aim is not just short-term political advantage, but a long-term wish to make individuals who espouse Conservative values seem unfit for decent society. The more this attack succeeds, the more difficult it is for us to attract new supporters, particularly young supporters. So we have to refute it strongly and effectively.

As ever, the most effective argument follows the rule “show, don’t tell”. Throughout its history, the Conservative Party has been at the forefront of social reforms which have helped the poor and disadvantaged, flatly disproving the Labour thesis. Paul Goodman is writing a series of articles on ConHome this week showing this repeated phenomenon.

Modern history is equally full of evidence of this vital strain of Conservatism which seeks to bind society together by ensuring that no one is left behind. Some of the most neglected communities in the country in the early 1980s, from East London to Liverpool, have been utterly transformed by the practical energy displayed by Michael Heseltine. Where there was once dereliction and despair, there is now prosperity and hope, thanks to Conservative Governments.

The Environment is another issue where lazy or malevolent commentators assume the left must have the best tunes. In fact, the first prominent British politician to realise its central importance was Margaret Thatcher. Bringing the story more up to date, David Cameron was equally seized of its importance (at least in his younger, more idealistic days). We still remember the huskies. The current Conservative Government will certainly continue this honourable tradition, and we should all publicly proclaim it. Vote Blue Go Green should be a slogan for the ages.

We should also be relentless in pointing out how the children of poorer households have benefitted from Conservative education reforms over recent years. All of this was outweighed by the anger of teachers at the last general election over spending levels during the period of austerity, so it is very important that the extra spending that will be made in schools in the coming years is accompanied by a continuing commitment to reform. For example, Michael Gove’s Free Schools are a great innovation which would certainly be killed by a Labour Government.

Equally, for all of its teething problems we can be proud of Universal Credit. The best argument for how it is helping benefit recipients is the historically low level of unemployment. The fact that it is always better to work, and always better to work longer hours, is the biggest single change in the benefit system since Beveridge, and it is good news for those on benefits as well as for the general health of society. Work is always the best long-term route out of poverty, and we should happy to argue with the Left on this point.

So we are able to show numerous examples where practical Conservative policies are hard-headed but not remotely hard-hearted. By contrast, they are helping people who have no advantages make the most of themselves and share in rising prosperity. Now we have moved out of the period of austerity this is an easier argument to make, so we can be more aggressive in calling out Labour’s attempts to demonise all of us.

At the same time, we must be vigilant in not giving Labour the chance to claim that the moderate Conservative tradition is in danger. This is not the article in which to discuss in detail the removal of the Whip from some of my colleagues, but it is absolutely the place to remind us all that the One Nation tradition is a central part of conservatism, and its underlying insight that the Conservative duty is to bind society together is more important than ever in these troubled times.

The biggest task for any Conservative is to convince a dubious electorate that properly regulated capitalism is the best system both for creating wealth and for spreading it fairly. We will need the maximum number of supporters, and the full breadth of all Conservative traditions to make this argument with force. At a time when Labour is determined to convince the non-political majority that Conservatives are basically evil, it is more important than ever that we demonstrate on a daily basis that we are the normal, decent majority in this country.

Even in the short term we should remember that the Liberal Democrats attract some normally Conservative voters in the same way that the Brexit Party does. We need to be careful on both our flanks. A strategy of delivering Brexit and simultaneously demonstrating that we can improve public services to the benefit of everyone is not just the best approach for the coming election, but the most convincing way of dismissing the Labour smear about our underlying motives.

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John Baron: Johnson must keep calm, carry on – and reject the Withdrawal Agreement

John Baron is MP for Basildon and Billericay,

‘May you live in interesting times’, goes the old saying. For those that lived through it, the saying might closely be applied to the long 2017-2019 session of Parliament, which has easily been the most extraordinary in our lifetimes. This session saw the aftermath of a bungled general election, the drama of the Article 50 court case and its triggering, the largest Government defeat in history, a change of Prime Minister, the announcement of a change of Speaker, topped off by a charged prorogation. It has been quite a ride.

The period has confirmed that this is a Remain Parliament which has not reconciled itself to leaving the EU. The triggering of Article 50 by an overwhelming majority in 2017 which clearly endorsed the UK’s departure with or without a deal by March 29th 2019 has long been forgotten – Remain MPs have now extended the deadline twice, and have legislated for a third delay. This hinders Brexit for the time being, but it also offers the Prime Minister an opportunity.

If he can hold his nerve and maintain possession of the narrative and truth that the Conservatives are working to implement the result of the 2016 referendum, in opposition to this Remain Parliament, then the Tories can win through at the forthcoming election. However, a core of Conservative backbench MPs, not necessarily members of the ERG, see any excessive compromise in an effort to secure a deal costing the Party dear.

Seen through this lens, the increasingly shrill anti-Brexit moves by Continuity Remain Parliamentarians is grist to the Conservatives’ mill. These tactics have become ever more desperate: just before prorogation they succeeded in re-jigging how emergency debates have always been understood to operate in order to pass the so-called ‘Surrender Act’, which will deprive the British Government of its ability to walk away from the Brexit negotiations if no good deal is on offer.

Quite apart from shifting the balance to the EU’s advantage, this Act apparently compels the Prime Minister to accept the EU’s chosen extension date – which could be a century or a millennium from now – unless the Government can win a vote to reject it. This the current Parliament would clearly never do.

Equally egregiously, Remainers used the same emergency debate ruse to pass a motion compelling gGovernment officials to surrender their personal devices and data, and also compelling the Government to publish confidential internal documents regarding preparations for a No Deal Brexit, should it occur. This represents an enormous breach of privacy – presumably Parliament could also vote to compel me to divulge my personal e-mails, or you to divulge yours – from those usually quick to associate themselves with standing up for civil liberties and human rights.

Moreover, by depriving ministers and officials of a ‘safe space’ in which the pros and cons of policies can be freely and frankly debated, Remainers have adversely affected policymaking and indeed the public record of ministerial decision-making. Officials and ministers will simply stop writing things down, which will help no-one. They may also put commercially sensitive information into the public domain, making No Deal planning more difficult than it would have been otherwise.

Opposition parties are also at sixes and sevens. As its own party conference opens, the endless quandary of Labour’s Brexit position continues. At present, its Labour’s ridiculous position, as elucidated by Emily Thornberry recently on the BBC’s Question Time, is that it would renegotiate a Brexit deal with the EU, which they would then bring back to the electorate in a second referendum during which they would campaign for Remain against the deal that they themselves had negotiated.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have been campaigning hard for a second referendum, in which they would campaign to remain. However, a second referendum would be very likely to return a second Leave vote, probably even larger than the 2016 outcome. As the Liberal Democrats have refused to accept the outcome of the first referendum, there is little chance they would accept the outcome of a second referendum which went the ‘wrong’ way. At their own party conference last week, they have even voted to endorse an out-and-out policy of revoking Article 50 should they win the election.

Not to be outdone, the Scottish National Party is campaigning for two second referendums – one on EU membership, and one on Scottish independence. Yet all their criticisms of Brexit read over to their central policy of breaking up the UK – the Irish/Scottish customs border, which they claim will inevitably lead to a hard border, and the fact that undoing a 47-year old union is too difficult, despite their desire to unpick a vastly deeper union of over three centuries’ standing. Scotland’s largest export market – by far – is the rest of the United Kingdom.

Opposition parties are so out of touch that, despite calling for an early general election almost every day since the last one, they have this week either abstained or even actively voted against Government attempts to call an early poll. These same people have urged their supporters to take to the streets to ‘stop the coup’, yet it is an unusual coup when the Government wants to consult the people but the opposition blocks this from happening.

There is little evidence of a significant shift of 2016 leave voters, and so the Government’s policy of reminding the electorate that it is they who are keeping faith with the largest democratic exercise in our country’s political history is correct. It may be that Parliament, via the Surrender Act, compels the Prime Minister to seek yet another extension of our exit date, in which case the Government should take each and every opportunity to point the finger at the Remain-supporting MPs who voted through this legislation.

If the Prime Minister sticks to his guns, the Conservatives will do well at the general election – whenever it comes. However, all of his advantages will be squandered if he, as some suggest, brings back to Parliament a re-heated version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement – with the backstop intact – for ‘MV4’ sometime in October. He must put on his tin hat, keep calm and carry on.

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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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