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Westlake Legal Group > Liberal Democrats

The real winners of this abortive ’emergency government’ could be the SNP

At the time of writing, it looks as if efforts to put together a ‘letter-writing government’ – formed with the sole intention of extending Article 50 and then calling an election – are hitting the buffers.

For all the controversy around the handful of Conservative and ex-Conservative MPs who appear willing to discuss putting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street for that purpose, there aren’t nearly enough of them to offset the ten ex-Labour MPs who won’t countenance installing their former leader.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Stephen Bush estimates that a Corbyn-led ’emergency government’ (the phrasing varies from advocate to advocate) would require 14 Tory rebels just to offset those hold-outs. He then reveals that they can’t even get Dominic Grieve.

As the Labour leadership are extremely unlikely to stand aside to allow a less divisive figure to do the job, the plan looks as if it might be dead in the water. Oddly, the biggest winners of this abortive effort might be the SNP.

Whilst they may no longer hold nearly every seat in Scotland, the parliamentary arithmetic is such that Nicola Sturgeon’s phalanx of Nationalist MPs would be absolutely crucial to any administration capable of outvoting the Conservative/Democratic Unionist alliance in the Commons. Unlike the hole she has dug for herself over independence, the First Minister seems to have used this leverage fairly well.

Unlike the other potential members of the rainbow coalition, the SNP have not ruled out making Jeremy Corbyn the next Prime Minister if that’s what it takes to halt Article 50. This has had several benefits.

First, they have been able to tempt both John McDonnell and, today, Jeremy Corbyn into undermining Labour’s agreed position on the Union and talking up the prospect of a second independence referendum. This has plunged an already-weakened Scottish Labour into civil war, and will likely see its vote squeezed even further as the SNP corral pro-independence voters and unionists consolidate behind Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives.

Second, this stance has allowed Sturgeon to put pressure on Jo Swinson. As the Scottish leader of a left-liberal, pro-EU party, SNP strategists might have worried that a Liberal Democrat revival might further chip away at their post-2014 coalition.

But Swinson’s room for manoeuvre is hindered by the fact that her Party’s main targets are mostly Tory-Lib Dem marginals where Corbyn is toxic. Putting a spotlight on Swinson’s swithering allows Sturgeon to paint the SNP as the best advocates for Scottish Europhiles, at very little cost to herself.

And of course, actually installing Corbyn in Number Ten would allow the Tories to re-run their successful campaign against the spectre of a ‘Lab-Nat Pact’ at the next election, not unhelpful if you think that a government led by Boris Johnson is a booster for independence.

The only possible danger seems to lie in the plan somehow working, and Corbyn entering the election legitimised as Prime Minister and as the hero who thwarted Johnson and his dastardly no-deal plans. But that prospect is probably not keeping the First Minister up at night.

It has now been two years since we first highlighted how the machinations of parliamentary remainers were bolstering those who want to break up the Union. It’s time this truth sank in.

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Iain Dale: Don’t mention the war, please. Why Johnson was wrong to suggest Hammond and company are collaborators.

Iain Dale presents the evening show on LBC Radio, and is the author of the forthcoming book ‘Why can’t we all just get along’.

Last week at the Edinburgh Festival, John McDonnell told me that Labour would insist on Jeremy Corbyn leading any interim government of national unity, following any successful vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s administration.

I told him that this idea was delusional, since the Labour leader wouldn’t be able to command a majority in Parliament in such circumstance.  Yesterday, Corbyn confirmed that this is exactly his intention.  But since there are plenty even of his own MPs who don’t have confidence in him, one wonders how he thinks he could persuade those of other parties to row in behind him.

Jo Swinson has made it clear she wouldn’t. Anna Soubry is p**sed off that she wasn’t even cc’d on his letter. I have never thought a national unity government is a runner, and I think it’s even less likely now. Jeremy Corbyn really believes that defeating No Deal is the be all and end all, he wouldn’t be taking such an uncompromising stance. I wonder if his public aversion to it is as deep as he is making out.

– – – – – – – – – –

Corbyn says that he will call a Vote of Confidence when he thinks he can win it. Well, obviously.  But his rhetoric at the moment leads me to believe that he’s in danger of boxing himself in. The more he talks about it, the more pressure there will be on him to deliver it. And if he doesn’t, he’ll be painted as ‘frit’.

– – – – – – – – – –

The defection of Sarah Wollaston to the Liberal Democrats was among the least surprising news of the week. She will surely not be the last of the original Independent Group of MPs to travel that particular journey. I’d have thought there will be at least a couple more before their conference takes place.

And then, of course, there could well be one or two defections directly from the Conservative benches. Guto Bebb and Phillip Lee are the candidates most often mentioned. Both seem to be going through a bit of public agonising. I suspect if either of them, or indeed anyone else does the dirty deed, it will be at a moment of maximum impact. August is probably not that time.

– – – – – – – – – –

The Prime Minister was unwise to use the word ‘collaboration’ on his Facebook Live session earlier this week. He was rightly complaining that the actions and words of some Conservative MPs – and he clearly had Philip Hammond in mind – were persuading the EU to stick by its guns while they wait and see what havoc Parliament can wreak when it returns in early September.

His sentiment was right – but you can’t go throwing around words which have World War Two connotations and effectively accuse some of your Parliamentary colleagues of being quislings (another word with the same suggestion).

To so so debases the debate. I don’t know if it was a deliberate use of the word, or whether it just slipped out. If the latter, fine; but if it was a deliberate attempt to feed into the ‘People v Parliament’ narrative, well, there are better ways of doing it.

– – – – – – – – – –

On Monday, I returned from my two weeks appearing on the Edinburgh Fringe. In 24 shows, I interviewed Sir Nicholas Soames, Brandon Lewis and Eric Pickles (together), and Johnny Mercer, among many others. We’re releasing all the interviews on a new podcast, Iain Dale All Talk, which you can now subscribe to on whichever platform you get your podcasts from.

– – – – – – – – – –

Today is the first day of my first and only holiday of the year. It will last ten days and I intend to spend it in Norfolk doing precisely nothing. Apart from play golf. And binge-watch box sets. And write next week’s ConHome Diary, of course.

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Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead.

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.

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s visit to Edinburgh last week, I polled Scots to measure support for a second independence referendum and to gauge opinion on independence itself. I found a small majority in favour of a new vote – and the first lead for an independent Scotland for more than two years.

I found 47 per cent agreeing that there should be another referendum on Scottish independence within the next two years (Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a new vote by 2021), with 45 per cent disagreeing.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.08.17 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   While more than nine in ten Conservatives oppose a referendum, a return to the polls is favoured by more than one third of 2017 Labour voters, more than half of EU Remain voters, and by more than one in five of those who voted No to independence in 2014.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.09.52 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked how they would vote in such a contest, 46 per cent said they would vote Yes to independence, and 43 per cent No. Excluding those who say they don’t know or wouldn’t vote, this amounts to a lead of 52 per cent to 48 per cent for an independent Scotland. This is the first lead for independence in a published poll since an Ipsos MORI survey in March 2017, and the biggest lead since a spate of polls in June 2016, shortly after the UK voted to leave the EU.

One third of Labour voters, a majority of EU Remain voters and 18 per cent of those who voted No to independence last time round said they would vote Yes. Again, more than nine in ten Tories said they would vote No, as did just over one in ten of those who backed independence in 2014. A majority of voters up to the age of 49 said they would vote Yes, including 62 per cent of those aged 18 to 24.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.11.04 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Overall, a majority of Scots thought that if a second referendum were to be held, the result this time would be an independent Scotland. Only three in ten – including just two thirds of Conservatives and fewer than half of 2014 No voters – thought Scotland would vote to remain part of the UK. A further 18 per cent said they didn’t know.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.12.08 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   More than six in ten Scots – including 38 per cent of 2017 Conservatives and two thirds of Labour voters – said they think Brexit makes it more likely that Scotland will become independent in the foreseeable future. Indeed, more than half of 2014 No voters think this is the case, with 32 per cent of them saying it makes independence much more likely.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.14.09 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Just over half – including a majority of Labour voters, nearly one in five Tories and two thirds of EU remain voters – say Brexit strengthens the case for Scotland to become independent.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.22.36 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Nearly half (46 per cent) of all Scots agree with Sturgeon’s claim that a No Deal Brexit would be disastrous for Scotland, including half of Labour voters and nearly one in five Tories. A further three in ten (including most Conservatives) think the risks have been exaggerated but there would be some difficulties.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.23.54 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked what their preferred Brexit outcome would be, most 2017 Conservative voters backed Boris Johnson’s position that the UK should leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal – though one in five said they would be prepared to wait longer than October for a better deal, and nearly a quarter said they wanted to remain in the EU. Remaining is the most popular outcome, though favoured by only half of all Scots.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.24.35 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Scottish voters are closely divided as to whether – if it were not possible to do both – it would be more important for Scotland to remain part of the UK, or to remain in the EU. While 43 per cent would prioritise the Union, 45 per cent would prioritise the EU. While Conservatives and SNP voters were leaned heavily as one would expect, Labour voters were split: 46 per cent would choose the UK, 40 per cent would choose the EU, and 14 per cent say they don’t know.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.25.33 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   More than half of Scots said there should be a second referendum on EU membership, including 69 per cent of SNP voters, more than half of Labour voters and one in five Conservatives. Should this take place, 67 per cent of those giving an opinion said they would vote to remain.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.27.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   As for Boris Johnson’s first week as Prime Minister, while nearly half of Scots said they expected him to do badly, a quarter of those said he had done better than they had anticipated.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.28.07 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   While only just over one third of 2017 Conservatives they expected him to do well and he had, a further one in four said they had had low expectations but been pleasantly surprised.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.29.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Compared to other politicians, Boris Johnson ranks relatively low among Scottish voters – though still above Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. He scores well below Ruth Davidson, both among Scots as a whole and, to a lesser degree, 2017 Conservatives.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.30.15 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Asked which of the two most likely candidate would make the better Prime Minister, 29 per vent of Scots named Johnson, 23 per centnig said Corbyn, and nearly half said they didn’t know. Fewer than four in ten 2017 Labour voters said they thought Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.31.07 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Despite this, when forced to choose, Scots said they would prefer a Labour government with Corbyn as Prime Minister to a Johnson-led Conservative government by 57 per cent to 43 per cent. A quarter of Labour voters said they would prefer the latter, as did the same proportion of SNP voters – perhaps calculating that this circumstance held out the best prospect of independence for Scotland.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2019-08-04-at-22.31.55 Lord Ashcroft: My new Scotland poll. Yes to Independence takes the lead. SNP Scottish referendum Scottish Labour Scottish independence Scottish Conservatives Scotland Ruth Davidson MSP Richard Leonard MSP Nigel Farage MEP Nicola Sturgeon MSP Liberal Democrats Labour Jeremy Corbyn MP Highlights Green Party Europe EU Conservatives Comment Brexit Boris Johnson MP   3Those who voted SNP in 2017 are the most likely to say they will stick with their party in a new general election. They put their mean likelihood of turning out for the party at 88/100, compared to Conservatives’ 71/100 chance of voting Tory again; 2017 Labour voters put their chance of voting the same way in a new election at just 56/100. Some Tories were tempted by the Brexit Party (their mean likelihood of voting this way being 35/100), and some by the Lib Dems (26/100). The SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all held some appeal for Labour voters. In terms of overall mean likelihood to vote for the party, both Labour and the Tories ranked behind the SNP, the Lib Dems and the Greens, whose score was boosted by an average likelihood of 55/100 among 18-24 year-olds.

Full data tables for the survey are available at LordAshcroftPolls.com.

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Phillip Taylor: CCHQ cannot be complacent about the resurgent threat of the Liberal Democrats

Phillip Taylor is an officer of Hampstead & Kilburn Conservative Association, and has worked on previous mayoral campaigns.

Conservatives like to enjoy making jokes and pre-emptive declarations about the end of the Liberal Democrats. Often an exercise in wishful thinking, in recent years the semi-serious fantasy was close to becoming a reality.

But after their by-election win in Brecon, we can’t be quite so confident the Lib Dems won’t be having the last laugh.

“I will say only this of the Liberal Democrat symbol and the party it symbolises – this is an ex-parrot”, joked Mrs Thatcher at their launch in 1990, in the first such attempt by a Tory leader to declare them a spent force. Twenty five years later, David Cameron tried the same trick, albeit without the awkward scripted joke from John Whittingdale. Addressing CCHQ staffers on the night the Lib Dems lost 48 MPs, he pronounced: “At every election we always think we’re going to displace those Lib Dems in the West Country and we’ve finally done it”.

But the Lib Dems have more in common with another Monthy Python character, the Black Knight. Whatever disaster befalls them, whatever part of the body politic they lose including, as they did in 2017, the head of their party, they refuse to accept it as anything more than a mere scratch.

If you never give up, John Cleese said explaining the motivation of his character in the film, you can’t possibly lose. Its no surprise he feels drawn to support the Lib Dems when they take the same approach.

They are in better health than many Conservatives may wish to acknowledge: membership at almost two thirds the size of our party, and now a by-election win for an energised leader who comes to front line politics as a ‘clean skin’, without the political baggage of her counterparts in other parties. More than double the number of Lib Dem members took part in the election of Jo Swinson than elected Nick Clegg leader back in 2007. Compare and contrast the 20 per cent drop in Conservative members over roughly the same time from David Cameron’s election as leader in 2005.

The Brecon and Radnorshire by-election result has illustrated the risk in assuming the next election will be another Conservative or Labour, him or me, two-way fight like the referendum or even 2017 General Election.

Many local Conservatives who are doggedly engaged in fights with Lib Dems understand this perfectly well. Its not just the irritation of those famously inaccurate bar charts which prompts us to jest about their departure from the political scene.

Irrespective of any Remain alliance that may have helped them to victory on this occasion, the Lib Dems ground campaign and GOTV operation has always been well-organised and laser-focused. I fought (and lost) a local election campaign in London last year against a resurgent Lib Dem party. They ruthlessly concentrated resources and didn’t think twice at rolling up campaigns in next door council seats, even the one being contested by their local leader, to focus on their target seats like mine. Seats where we did better, we did so mostly because they didn’t try.

To nip a resurgent Lib Dem party in the bud, we need to address two key areas of weakness. First, James Cleverly’s sole task should be to find some rocket-boosters of his own and strap them on to the internal party reforms correctly identified and begun by Brandon Lewis. If a general election is coming in the next six months, he has time only to complete the overhaul of the campaigning side of the party HQ.

Our activist base has undoubtedly become over-stretched. Trying to relive previously successful periods by covering the same ground at the same intensity is unsustainable with a much-reduced membership. The Lib Dems have years of practice of working at this level of resourcing, concentrating operations in their key areas and make better strategic use of their limited-sized activist base.

The campaign managers being deployed by CCHQ are a necessary start, but they need to be given more autonomy and allowed to gain more field experience to work properly. Embedding this discipline within the party machine will be more effective than simply buying in electioneering expertise later.

More collective ownership of regional target seats, as well as recognition and reward of when support is being provided, is also needed. Mutual aid is sensible but needs better incentives for associations to dial-down their own campaigns in almost-but-not-quite winnable seats. Ruth Davidson’s two-election strategy in Scotland is a sound model; an offer by CCHQ of jam tomorrow through guaranteed assistance in the next council elections would be a welcome incentive for such associations to provide help elsewhere in the short term. It would also usefully re-build their activist base for a concerted effort in the following parliamentary campaign.

This by-election result is also a timely reminder that Conservative governments require broad based support to retain and win some of the marginal seats that are necessary for a Commons majority. Those seats which helped Cameron to his slim but ‘sweetest victory of them all’ of 2015 look vulnerable again. The Lib Dems are desperate to pick them off.

Our second task is to develop policies which appeal to these soft-Conservative voters and promote them loudly amidst the rising Brexit furore. Whether or not the Lib Dems win in the Labour leadership’s backyard, and the two opposition parties get caught up in some Lab to LD seat-swapping, misses the point.

Voters in currently Conservative-held seats in cities, university towns, and in moderate commuter beltways, where voters are relatively wealthy, educated, and more electorally mobile, have choices again. Socially responsible and ecologically-minded, the more considered form of liberal Conservativism won’t necessarily be persuaded that Boris’ past performance as London mayor is a sufficient indication of future intent as national Prime Minister. They are wary of some of the faces in senior positions around the Cabinet table. The Lib Dems are working to re-open the door for them.

Aspiring voters in their twenties and thirties want to own their own homes, but they want to feel good about doing it. They want to be uber-riding, deliveroo-eating and Airbnb-ing, but not at any cost. The environment counts and concerns about homelessness matter as much as personal freedoms. Equally, the forty-something citizens of the world want to see the Government’s deeds match its internationalist rhetoric before they are willing to be counted as our people again.

More solidly One Nation policies need to be worked up in areas that matter to these voters, and promoted by personalities who have, and are seen to have, at least as equal a voice in Cabinet as those from elsewhere in the party.

The heady days of 2016, when the Government not only retained seats at by-elections but took them off opposition parties, are probably the aberration they seemed at the time. The Lib Dems are back and we are back to watching them scoop up once solid Conservative seats. The next BBC general election results show mustn’t become our own climactic Godfather scene.

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WATCH: Swinson – “Yes, I would absolutely honour” a second vote to Leave

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The Boris bounce: where are the votes coming from, and where might more be available?

As you’d expect on the Sunday after a new Prime Minister takes office, there are a raft of new polls out in today’s newspapers, each trying to judge what impact Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street is having on the electorate.

The four polls vary in various details beyond being from different pollsters – some include different lists of parties (Greens or no Greens), some are based on more recent fieldwork than others and might therefore pick up the effects of more news about the new Government, and they each test rising or falling vote shares by comparing back to differently dated previous polls, ranging from earlier this week to all the way back to the start of June. Here are all the details:

ComRes

Conservative: 28 per cent (+3)

Labour: 27 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 19 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 16 per cent (-3)

Green: 4 per cent (-1)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Thursday 25th July. Changes compared to 16th July.

YouGov

Conservative: 31 per cent (+6)

Labour: 21 per cent (+2)

Liberal Democrat: 20 per cent (-3)

Brexit Party: 13 per cent (-4)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 24th July.

DeltaPoll

Conservative: 30 per cent (+10)

Labour: 25 per cent (-1)

Liberal Democrat: 18 per cent (+2)

Brexit Party: 14 per cent (-10)

Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Saturday 27th July. Changes compared to 1st June.

Opinium

Conservative: 30 per cent (+7)

Labour: 28 per cent (+3)

Liberal Democrat: 16 per cent (+1)

Brexit Party: 15 per cent (-7)

Green: 5 per cent (-3)

Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 5th July.

There are few things to note.

First, the Conservative vote is up in each poll. Which you believe, +3, +6, +7 or +10, is up to you, but the presence of a shift in the same direction in the findings of each company is hard to ignore.

Second, the Brexit Party appears to be being squeezed, with changes in their vote share of -3, -4, -10 and -7. Watch how closely those match the Tory rise in each respective pollster’s results.

Third, the Liberal Democrat vote is essentially unchanged across the board: +2, -3, +2, +1. They gained a new leader this week, just as the Conservatives did, but Jo Swinson appears not to have changed their standing much at all as yet.

Fourth, Labour is essentially unchanged, too: -1, +2, -1, +3.

So what we’re currently seeing is not a single, two-sided race, as is traditional; nor a simple free-for-all melee in a country which has become a four-way marginal.

Rather, there are two electoral contests underway. The Conservatives under Boris Johnson are squeezing the Brexit Party, to try to reunite the old Vote Leave majority for getting out of the EU. At the same time, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are battling over territory which is varyingly lefty and Remainy.

In the former contest, Johnson’s early days show some promise, but in the latter it appears Labour are unable to win back the votes they lost to the Lib Dems, while Swinson is in search of a moment to cut through to further eat into, and maybe even overtake, the Labour vote.

Each race has one new participant within it, which makes both unpredictable and subject to potentially swift change as voters get to know the new leaders. While the Conservatives have made early progress, any actual seizure of voters from the Brexit Party at the ballot box is for obvious reasons dependent on actual results in delivering Brexit. By contrast, Swinson inevitably had difficulty cutting through in the media in a week dominated by Boris Johnson, but as the only female leader among the four top parties, and the youngest leader too, she has a clear chance to differentiate herself if she gets and seizes the opportunity. She must be hoping hard for a TV debate along the lines of the one that created Cleggmania in 2010.

The final thing to consider is that while these early stages of Johnson’s leadership involve a battle for votes with the Brexit Party, there’s nothing confining the Prime Minister to that conflict forever. If – and it’s not a small if – he can really squish down Nigel Farage’s vote, or somehow form a pact with him, then he can turn, secure in his Brexit flank, to focus more fully on Labour. The nightmare scenario for the Opposition is one in which they lose Remainer and moderate left ground to the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Leaver plus working class ground to the Conservatives.

In a four-way contest, currently divided into two skirmishes, the race is on to find who will be trapped fighting two opponents at the same time.

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WATCH: Swinson, the new LibDem Leader, says that she “will do anything it takes to stop Brexit”

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Interview. Johnson says that every member of his Cabinet must sign up to Britain leaving the EU on 31st October – deal or no deal

If Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister, he will expect every member of the Cabinet to agree with his policy of leaving the EU on 31st October, deal or no deal.

He argues in this interview that there is only a “very, very, very small possibility” of no deal actually happening, but he says that ministers “would have to be reconciled” to that possibility.

Johnson maintains that since the failure to leave on 29th March, “we’re in a different political world”, where the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats are “feeding like puffballs on the decay of trust in politics”.

This means “the parliamentary mood has changed” and the Commons will not vote for another extension. He considers the latter eventuality so improbable that he declines to say what he would do if it came to pass.

But he certainly does not wish to call a general election.

Johnson insists he has “a very good relationship with Ruth Davidson”, and that getting Brexit through on 31st October will strengthen the Union, as the SNP will find it very difficult to campaign for Scotland to rejoin the EU.

Asked whether he had agreed to Sajid Javid’s call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, Johnson said he had discussed this with Javid and “what we’ve committed to is a general investigation into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-semitism”.

When reminded that he used to refer to Iain Duncan Smith, who has just become chairman of his leadership campaign, as “Iain Dunkin’ Donuts”, Johnson replied:

“Did I? I think I can say that to his face and I think he would be all right. Iain is a friend. The thing I admire about Iain is he has done a fantastic amount to take the Tories on to the agenda of social justice.”

Johnson denied his campaign team is a Boys’ Club, dominated by men, and pointed to the number of women who worked for him at City Hall.

He added that “one of the things I learned from City Hall is the vital necessity of arriving with a well thought through plan, having things ready to go”.

And he said that as PM he would be “the hireling of the people” and would have no time to complete his book on Shakespeare.

ConHome: “Brexit and all that, do or die. It must be the case, must it not, that every member of your Cabinet, when you appoint them, must be committed to leaving on 31st October, deal or no deal.”

Johnson: “Yes, that will be the policy of the Government.”

ConHome: “This means an awful lot of people will be automatically excluded – Greg Clark or David Gauke or Amber Rudd – all these people who abstained rather than have no deal, they can’t sit in your Cabinet if you’re committed to leaving on 31st October.”

Johnson: “Well, I don’t believe we will get a no deal outcome. I think that people who are determined like me to leave on terms other than no deal, which I am…”

ConHome: “But they’ve got to be committed to do it if you can’t…”

Johnson: “I want obviously to have a broad range of talent in my Government, the Government that I will lead, but clearly people must be reconciled to the very, very, very small possibility, and I stress it will be a very, very small possibility, that we would have to leave on those terms.

“I don’t think it will happen but they would have to be reconciled to it.”

ConHome: “One of the reasons why we are where we are now is that you can’t have an extension if the Prime Minister doesn’t sign up to it.

“So Theresa May has twice requested an extension because she thought correctly that the Commons would vote for one.

“What are you going to do if the Commons votes for another extension?”

Johnson: “Well, um, obviously I just think we’re in a different political world to 29th March and I think the Prime Minister’s decision to seek two extensions has done a great deal of damage to the Conservative Party and also to trust in politics.

“I think that people expected us to leave. The fact that we missed two deadlines has led to the growth, the puffball-like growth both of the Brexit Party, but also of the Liberal Democrats.

“And they are feeding saprophytically, like puffballs, on the decay in trust in politics. That’s where they’re getting their strength from.

“And they will continue to thrive until we get it done. And if we fail again, if we kick the can down the road on 31st October, if we continue to delay, if we treat this as a fake deadline, just yet another rigmarole, then I think the voters will be very frustrated indeed.

“And I think that our party, the Conservative Party, which I fought for for a very long time across this country, I think that we will not easily recover.

“So getting back to your point about Cabinet colleagues and the spirit of the party, where we all are, actually I think people understand that.

“And I think they also understand, intellectually, that you have to keep no deal on the table. Not only keep no deal on the table but you have to prepare for it actively and with confidence.

“And it’s very striking in the last couple of week, perhaps even the last couple of days, to hear some outbreaks of common sense.”

ConHome: “I think what you’re saying is if they vote for extension you will not go and seek an extension, because we must leave on 31st October.”

Johnson: “I’m not quite saying that. What I’m saying is that the parliamentary mood has changed and continues to change, and I think that actually, listening carefully to colleagues, and I will, and I’ll try to understand exactly where everybody is, and you know I will make myself totally available and try to work very, very hard to get this thing through – that’s been why I’ve been so pleased to get the numbers I did [in the parliamentary phase of the leadership election] – I think people can see the existential threat that we face.

“Here’s the choice that colleagues face. It’s a sensible Brexit deal that protracts the existing arrangements, that allows us to get on and deliver on the mandate of the people, that allows us to build a new partnership with our friends across the Channel, that allows us as Tories once again to build strong bilateral relationships with France, with Germany, to be pro-European, that allows us to get on and defeat Jeremy Corbyn when the election comes, that allows us to put out a fantastic agenda of modern conservatism.

“On the other hand, there’s voting it down, and then enraging the electorate.”

ConHome: “You’re basically saying the context has changed.”

Johnson: “Yes.”

ConHome: “And MPs won’t ask for an extension. I’m asking what you’ll do if they do.”

Johnson: “That is exactly what I’m saying. I think it has changed and continues to change. Several important things have changed in addition to the context.”

ConHome: “But if the Commons do ask for an extension, you are committed to leaving on 31st October. That’s an absolute.”

Johnson: “Well I am certainly committed to leaving on the 31st. I absolutely am. But I think it very, very unlikely that Parliament will want to kick the can down the road again.

“And my objective in this contest is to make it absolutely clear that kicking the can means kicking the bucket.

“When I hear from other candidates, actually there is only one other candidate left, when I hear from the other side that somehow 31st October has become again, you know, it’s turning into a mirage, we’re going to arrive at the oasis and find it’s not there, and that suddenly it’s been put off till the Greek Kalends, to next year.

“I really think there is no objective reason at all why we should not leave on 31st October.”

ConHome: “But are you ready if the Commons doesn’t do that, and does vote for an extension, and you don’t leave on 31st October, are you ready to face a general election?”

Johnson: “Well, it will be certainly not my intention or desire to have a general election, and in fact I want the exact opposite. Nor do I think is it the desire of MPs on either side of the House to have a general election.

“The public has been consulted in 2015, in 2016, in 2017. They don’t want to be pushed out to the polls again. They don’t want to be asked to vote again.

“And they’re quite right. What they want is for us to get it done and what they expect is for us to get it done on 31st October.

“And what they don’t want is more pointless can-kicking. They want a decision, and they want action.

“And that’s the only way, I’m afraid, to spike the guns of both the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats who are prospering mightily as a result of the indecision of the main parties, particularly our party.”

ConHome: “Do you accept that your candidacy is a problem for the Conservatives in Scotland, and therefore for the Union of Scotland and England?”

Johnson: “Well I’m delighted to have strong support from excellent Scottish MPs. I have a very good relationship with Ruth Davidson indeed…”

ConHome: “She was against you some months ago.”

Johnson: “Well, actually we have a very good relationship.”

ConHome: “I think you had Ross Thomson at the start.”

Johnson: “We have several Scottish colleagues now who are openly backing me. I’m very proud of that.

“And I would just make one point about the Union. I think the Union will be greatly strengthened by getting Brexit done in a sensible way.

“And if I were thinking in Scotland about who I want to govern the country, my country, Scotland, and if I were looking at the Government of the United Kingdom, and it totally failed to deliver on this essential request from the British people, and it couldn’t even do that, I would think well why am I being governed from London.

“On the other hand, once we get Brexit done, there’ll be lots of things we can do to cement and strengthen the Union, to champion the Union between England and Scotland, and the Union between Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Union with Wales.

“There are all sorts of ways in which we can show the value of the awesome foursome and take it forward.

“And interestingly, there are things we will have to do legally to underpin the internal market of the UK as we come out of the EU.

“And final point, do you really think that the Scots Nats, once we leave, are going to have a song to sing about leaving the UK and joining the EU?

“And joining the euro, joining the Schengen area, submitting Scotland to EU rules, losing control of fish in Scotland to the EU? Really? Absolutely not.

“This thing, far from damaging the Union, Brexit is going to make life very, very difficult for the SNP indeed. I think it will take away a lot of their arguments, and it will greatly cement and strengthen the Union.”

ConHome: “The Boris Johnson tax cuts programme. Just to clear up the business about the 40 per cent threshold. Is that the first thing you want to do, or are there other things you want to do with it?”

Johnson: “There will be a package of fiscal measures, most of which will be directed at helping people on low incomes, including lifting thresholds for National Insurance and so on.”

ConHome: “Are you waving farewell to what’s known as ‘austerity’? You’ve got this spending programme, education, infrastructure, broadband, and you’ve got this tax cuts programme.

“What’s going to happen to spending control?”

Johnson: “Don’t forget the Chancellor’s revenues exceeded his expenditure in February alone by 14.5 billion. There is money there. Of course we’ll spend it sensibly.

“I never like the word ‘austerity’, but I think both George and Phil Hammond have done great work in exercising restraint, in reducing both the deficit and debt, very, very important.

“But I think most people you talk to today think there is room for some spending, particularly on education, where I want to level up.”

ConHome: “Will you be able to carry on writing books? Harold Macmillan claimed to read novels in the garden at Number Ten.”

Johnson: “He took a Trollope to bed, didn’t he?”

ConHome: “When are you going to bring this playwright, Shakespeare, before a wider public?”

Johnson: “This unjustly neglected author.”

ConHome: “What proportion of that book have you actually written?”

Johnson: “The truth is I’ve written a terrifyingly large quantity of stuff, but it’s one of those projects that continues to grow in ambition as it goes on.

“But I want to stress that if I succeed in this job I will be the hireling of the people, and I will be working flat-out on their behalf.”

ConHome: “Why has Iain Duncan Smith been brought in as campaign chairman now?”

Johnson: “Iain is a long-standing friend and supporter. I’m a fan of Iain.”

Paul Goodman for ConHome: “This is the man who you and I used to refer to in our light-hearted way when we were Members of Parliament together as Iain Dunkin’ Donuts.”

Johnson: “Did we? [laughter]

“I don’t think that showed particular disrespect for the great man. I think I can say that to his face and I think he would be all right.

“Iain is a friend. The thing I admire about Iain is he has done a fantastic amount to take the Tories on to the agenda of social justice, and campaigning for the interests of the poor and the needy in society.

“He gets all that. His heart is very much in the right place. He has a great understanding of the Conservative Party grassroots, and he enacted some pretty difficult reforms of welfare when he was in charge of that area, and he also is a guy who understands the intricacies of the EU issue.

“So he’s well-placed to chair the second phase of the campaign as we go out now to the members.”

ConHome: “Have you deliberately gone up a gear? There was all the stuff over the weekend and before that, Boris Johnson won’t do any debates.

“You’re doing the hustings, you’re doing this interview, you did Laura Kuenssberg.”

Johnson: “I love campaigning.”

ConHome: “You won’t do the Sky debate.”

Johnson: “I had to do the Conservative Friends of Israel dinner apart from anything else, which was a long-standing engagement, which I wasn’t going to blow out.”

ConHome: “The cry is that Boris will go out and debate, but he’s not going to go out and debate until after about 8th July, when most of the members have voted.”

Johnson: “We’re doing all sorts of debates and hustings, and I’m very, very keen to use whatever contacts I have with the media, whatever debates I’m doing, to get across what I want to do, which is come out on 31st October, get the thing done, unite the country and beat Corbyn.

“Every opportunity I have to say that is good.”

ConHome: “Given that you’re quite likely to win, how much planning for Downing Street are you doing?”

Johnson: “Obviously it’s very, very important at this stage not to appear in any way to be taking things for granted. But one of the things I learned from City Hall is the vital necessity of arriving with a well thought through plan, having things ready to go.”

ConHome: “Have you canvassed the present Prime Minister for her support?”

Johnson: “I haven’t. I did talk to her today and yesterday about another matter. She didn’t volunteer it.”

ConHome: “You were too shy. You missed a trick.”

Johnson: “There was a slight pause in the conversation where perhaps she could have said.”

ConHome: “Had she wished.”

Johnson: “You never know. You never know. I don’t rule it out.”

ConHome: “Is your campaign team open to the criticism that it’s a Boys’ Club? And that Downing Street also, were you to get there, would be a Boys’ Club?”

Johnson: “Not at all. On the contrary. Look at my administration in City Hall, which you may recall, which was basically a feminocracy of one kind or another. We had about half and half.”

ConHome: “The claim is that at your morning meetings it’s all men.”

Johnson: “There are lots of female MPs supporting my campaign. I don’t go to these morning meetings myself, but we have lots of women working, look at the campaign team, go downstairs and you’ll see Charlotte and Ellie, and virtually everybody is a woman on the campaign team.”

ConHome: “In that BBC debate, when Sajid Javid called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, everyone said yes. Did you agree?”

Johnson: “Well I took it up with Saj afterwards, and he said that actually, if I understand it correctly, what we’ve committed to is a general investigation into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-semitism.”

ConHome: “An independent one?”

Johnson: “Yup. Thanks so much, Ellie. Thank you very much. [She has brought him a mug of tea.] So yes, we’ll have to study exactly what Saj has in mind, but it sounded like a sensible idea when he mentioned it.”

ConHome: “In 1998, you wrote a tremendously trenchant piece defending Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky business, making the argument that all politicians are entitled to a private life and it’s none of the voters’ business. Is this still your line?”

Johnson: “Yes, yes. The reason I give for it happens to be true, which is that it is quite difficult to say things without dragging people in who are not political figures.

“All it does is divert people’s attention. It frustrates voters actually. They genuinely want to hear how I’m going to take the UK out of the EU.”

ConHome: “Have you found it hurtful to lose some of the popularity you had before the EU referendum? People who used to smile indulgently at the thought of you, some of them started to hate you.”

Johnson: “Well the great lesson of politics is that when you’re unpopular, it’s not something you should take personally, because what they’re taking against is what they think you stand for.

“The flip side of it of course is that when you’re loved, and when you’re popular, that is equally transitory and I’m afraid probably equally superficial.

“These are slight illusions, popularity and unpopularity.”

ConHome: “What’s your reaction to being called a coward by Jeremy Hunt?”

Johnson: “The eleventh commandment of Ronald Reagan, thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow conservative.”

ConHome: “And that’s the end of that? You don’t feel compelled to challenge him to a nude mud-wrestling contest? To have it out mano a mano?”

Johnson: “I would defeat anybody in such a contest, were I obliged to do so, but that’s not how I propose to win this. This is about coming out of the EU on 31st October. It’s about uniting our country. It’s about re-energising Conservatives with an exciting vision for our party and our country.”

ConHome: “Would you serve under Jeremy Hunt if he won?”

Johnson: “It’s always a great honour to serve in a government of any kind. I only resigned on principle over Chequers with a huge sense of regret.”

ConHome: “And you’d offer him a job?”

Johnson: “One thing I’m not doing is promising jobs to anybody at the moment, and I think that would be wrong. But I would stress that Jeremy is one of many, many talented colleagues that we have at the moment.

“I don’t think the Conservative Party in my memory has had quite so many brilliant people in Parliament. There really are a lot now.”

ConHome: “As you set out to reunite the country, what are you going to do on this question of Heathrow? Can we take it you won’t be lying down under the bulldozers?”

Johnson: “Well I think the bulldozers are a long way off. I will follow with great interest the current court cases, because it is still the case that the promoters of the third runway have a long way to go before they can satisfy the legal requirements they must meet both on noise pollution and air quality. And there are many people in west London who would say the same.”

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Damian Flanagan: What drives the Conservatives’ underlying problems? For answers, ponder our exile from the cities of the north.

So why am I even writing about this secretive group of no-hopers? Because they happen to be called “The Conservative Party” – and it currently runs the country. Also, I happen to be one of them, having recently taken over the running of the newly reformed Manchester, Withington Constituency Conservative Association.

The position of the Conservative Party not just in Manchester, but in cities across the North of England is so dire that it is probably beyond the imaginings of people in the rest of the country and certainly seems to be a blind spot for Conservative Campaign Headquarters. There hasn’t been a single Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for over 25 years, and until two years ago, the council was a hundred per cent Labour, with no opposition whatsoever – leading to zero scrutiny of any Council policies.

In the recent local elections,t he Conservatives sunk to a new low in Manchester, attracting just 6.5 per cent of the vote, half that achieved by both the Greens and Liberal Democrats, and barely 1/9th of the 58.8 per cent achieved by Labour.

The opposition to Labour in Manchester now consists of three Liberal Democrat councillors (who recently complained that the council was too “right wing”). There is also not a single Conservative councillor on the councils in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle…

So why should people elsewhere care about this? If Northerners like Labour so much, shouldn’t they just be allowed to get on with it?

You could argue that the local elections were an aberration and that people were venting their frustration with the Brexit stalemate in Westminster, that two unrelated issues – local government and national government – were being conflated.

Yet the crisis over Brexit and the full-scale retreat of the Conservative Party from many cities in the north of England are profoundly connected.

Think back to the last time that the Conservative Party enjoyed thumping majorities of over 100 in the House of Commons and was able to act decisively. You have to go back to Margaret Thatcher and the 1980s, a time when the Conservatives still had MPs in urban constituencies in places like Manchester, had a considerable group of representatives on the council there and could appeal to voters in northern cities.

Since being rooted out of those northern cities in the 1990s, the best the Conservatives have been able to hope for are slim majorities in general elections, leaving them highly vulnerable to party divisions over Europe.

Having the vision and doggedness to produce policies that re-engage with the inhabitants of places like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leicester, Tyneside and Newcastle has seemingly not been in the mindset of anyone in the Conservative Party. That needs to change urgently.

The fact is that the Conservatives have for over 22 years been incapable of ruling without the support first of the Liberal Democrats and now of the Democratic Unionists. Parliament has been paralysed, Brexit frustrated and finally the Conservatives went begging to Labour for agreement with their policies. All these things are intimately connected to the fact that there has not been a Conservative councillor elected in Manchester for 25 years.

Imagine, though, that the Conservatives were to declare their determination to win back these “lost” Northern cities, starting by setting up a permament office in Manchester and sending some of their best people to find out what exactly is going on and to find a solution to the ingrained antipathy to Conservatives. Supposing we were to make it a marquee policy that we will not, as Conservatives, accept the age-old, north-south wealth divide – why should we? There is no reason whatsover why the north should be poor.

Let’s commit ourselves as Conservatives to those neglected northern cities by taking radical measures: offering tax incentives for companies to set up there and moving government departments north – the relocation of sections of the BBC to Salford and the creation of Media City there has been transformational in the economy of that area.

Let’s commit ourselves to the end of failing, inner city northern state schools which trap many children in a cycle of ignorance and poverty for life, and demand that minimal standards are met instead, and that we will closely monitor and put in targetted resources to these areas until that happens.

Imagine if people in the North began to think of the Conservatives not as the “Nasty Party” only concerned with their own interests and support base in the south, but rather as the visionaries who lifted them, once and for all, out of relative poverty and offered unprecedented opportunities, rediscovering the entrepeneurial drive and world-beating heritage of these post-industrial cities.

In Manchester, the populace are constantly told, over and over, that the source of all problems are “Tory cuts”. It is a matter of almost existential, religious belief.

The local governments of such cities as Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle – cities which once led the world as centres of invention and industry – tend to focus on a culture of welfare. There is little sense that a spirit of enterprise, self-reliance and sense of public good is required to guarantee a prosperous future: it’s this compassionate and engaged Conservative vision that the North needs to rediscover.

As Conservatives, we need to support and nurture such a vision. But we are not going to manage it as a London-centric organisation that just views the cities of the north as largely unwinnable provincial backwaters.

The Conservative revolution that needs to begin in cities across the North should also transform the Conservatives nationally. The Conservatives cannot be merely a party of the South and the countryside: it must strongly engage with the interests and concerns of England’s northern cities.

Many people think the great irresolvable fault line in British politics lies between Britain and the EU or else on the border of the Irish Republic. But delve further into what exactly is causing the underlying weakness and reliance on coalitions in Conservative governments, and you will see that it is the long Conservative exile from the cities of the North which is a chief cause of what is stopping the UK advancing forward with decisiveness and unity as a nation.

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Alexander Temerko: Without a softer Brexit, the Conservatives will be destroyed. Who can best deliver it – Hunt or Johnson?

Alexander Temerko is an industrialist and a Conservative Party donor and activist.

As Jeremy Hunt has rightly said, Britain is facing a constitutional crisis. A No Deal Brexit does not command Parliamentary support and will trigger an election – risking a Labour government coming to power that will not deliver Brexit.

Sadly, the current radicalisation of attitudes within the Conservative Party is making this scenario likely.  Last week’s You Gov poll showed how the party membership sees the major threat not from Labour, but from the Brexit Party: a two to one majority is in favour of pursuing Brexit, even it if leads to Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the Union and causes significant economic damage. A majority favours going ahead with Brexit, even if it leads to the destruction of the Tories.

Understandably, it has been impossible for the leadership candidates to ignore this determination to deliver Brexit at all costs. Their campaigns have reflected the belief that the Conservatives’ salvation lies in outflanking Nigel Farage.

In this frenzy, there is no room for compromise.  For understandable generational reasons, many party members holds strong views on Brexit. They remember the ‘good old days’ before Britain joined the European project, when the world was a different place. Most of us remember our youth with nostalgia.

Yet a much larger part of the Conservative electorate has grown up in different times. For many younger people who instinctively vote Conservative, the Brexit issue does not have the same potency. The same applies to business voters and those who seek ‘safety first’ leadership.

Unless it can quickly find internal compromise, the Conservative Party risks committing electoral suicide. In 2016, the electorate voted narrowly in favour of leaving the EU. It did not vote for either a hard Brexit or for a no-deal Brexit. Three years later, there is no evidence that attitudes have fundamentally changed.

The Brexit Party’s strong showing in the European elections was a protest by against the failure of the Government to deliver Brexit as it had promised. However, another significant part of the Tory vote went to the Liberal Democrats.

The fixation on ‘delivering’ Brexit is blinding the Conservative Party to the consequences of forcing the country to leave the EU without a deal. There is no time for a re-negotiation of the exit terms before October 31st, even were the EU 27 were to agree to such a change. This will automatically put Britain on the path to a No Deal Brexit.

If the country leaves without a deal, some Tories may congratulate themselves on killing off the Brexit Party.  But this will be a pyrrhic victory. Large-scale economic disruption will inevitably follow, and deliver a fatal blow to the Conservative Party’s reputation for economic competence. It will make Labour’s neo-Marxist agenda appear the lesser evil.

The only solution for Tories is to look beyond the Brexit issue, and see the real enemy. Jeremy Corbyn will only come to power if Conservatives allow him to.

My friends are wrong in thinking that victory over Farage will automatically translate into defeat of Labour since voters do not want Corbyn. In reality, voters do not want radicals. For them, Corbyn is a left-wing radical – and we are becoming radicals of the Right demanding that our leader takes extreme positions that we call the defence of democracy.

Making the commitment to leaving the EU by October 31st the main leadership requirement for the next Prime Minister will bring in a Labour government. In a snap election, a radical position on Brexit will drive voters away from the Tories to Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

This extraordinary situation demands that Conservatives recognise that their internal divisions are empowering Labour and threatening to bring it to power. If this happens, Brexit, the British economy and the Conservative Party will be buried in a common grave for the next ten years under a heavy tombstone of socialism.

The Tories must now move to the centre ground and advocate a softer Brexit – one based on the acceptance that leaving the EU is far more complicated than originally conceived and that the terms of exit need broad public support.

The electorate is crying out for responsible leadership that safeguards the economy and the broader national interest. Only a de-radicalised Conservative Party can provide it.

This requires a Prime Minister who is pragmatic and has the experience, the grasp of policy and the personal qualities to reach across the divisions in both the Conservative Party and its electorate. Speaking to many donors at the Birmingham hustings on Saturday, I found that that Jeremy Hunt’s quiet assurances were more attractive to them than Boris Johnson’s rhetorical flourishes. Yet both have the task of bringing back donors who have moved over to Farage.

The choice is simple. There is Boris: colourful, full of unpredictable talents, the nemesis of Farage and annihilator of the Brexit Party – but leading the country to the total uncertainty of October 31st.

Or Jeremy – an experienced politician with authority, attractive to business and young people, capable of delivering Brexit and maintaining friendly relations with Europe, including trade, and at the same time able to consolidate the Party and mobilise the country to face the threat of Corbyn’s communism, Putin’s Russia and international terrorism.

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