I have repeatedly blogged in the past year or two about how the Conservative Party, as a party of government at least, faces an existential challenge. MSM scribblers and talking heads have caught up now and discuss the situation frequently.
The opinion polls must make sobering reading for Conservative MPs. For the upcoming EU elections, the Conservatives are rated as between 11%-15%; for the next general election, the figures are 24%-25%.
That might translate into a loss of Westminster seats numbering somewhere between 50 and 200 out of the 312 that the Conservatives currently hold [the Con Party also has 247 out of 782 peers of the House of Lords, 18 out of 73 UK seats in the European Parliament, 31 out of 129 Scottish Parliament seats, 12 out of 60 Welsh Assembly seats, and 8 out of 25 London Assembly seats].
As my previous blogs explored, the Conservatives are menaced by several trends and facts:
- an ageing membership (largely of pensionable age) and voter profile (only 16% of those under 35 intend to vote Conservative, and only 4% of those under 25);
- a burgeoning ethnic minority population in the UK; most ethnic minority voters who vote, vote Labour (with the exception of Jews);
- increasing numbers of urban and other renters, as opposed to property-owners; many renters are paying very substantial sums for their rent, and are subject to perceivedly unjust rental situations;
- very many former Conservative voters defecting to Brexit Party by reason of the events around the EU Brexit situation;
- dissatisfaction with Theresa May and, to a lesser extent, with the mediocre or poor level and performance of Conservative ministers and backbenchers;
- Conservative voters tactical-voting for the LibDems in Lab/LibDem marginals and in former Conservative safe seats where Brexit Party has undermined the Conservative vote;
- financial problems (recent msm reports that the Conservative Party cannot easily pay the rent on its head office), meaning, eg, that publicity cannot be bought;
- reports that as many as 60% of 2017 Conservative voters will not vote Conservative next time.
The upshot is that the Conservative Party is in deep trouble. The UK, especially England and Wales, that the Cons have created since 2010, is just not working for most people. This is perhaps not the place in which to detail that statement, but I have done so in earlier blog posts.
What can the Conservatives do to recover their situation? Obviously, as a social national thinker, I hope that the Conservatives do not recover, but these matters must be examined. Conservative plans may include
- ditching Theresa May: this is mooted daily in the msm, but she seems to be hanging on for the Summer, until August/September and possibly even until the Conservative Party Conference which starts on 29 September 2019, though no doubt her MPs would much rather have anointed a new leader by then;
- once Theresa May is gone, election of a new leader. This presents another problem, in that the existing candidates are mostly of very poor quality. Even the most popular (allegedly) in the country, Boris Johnson, in fact (as opinion polls have revealed) is not very much supported by voters: only 20% think that he would be the right candidate (though he still scored higher than all others);
What else might the Conservative Party do to improve its position? Well, there is one thing, though it would be an extremely risky stratagem: not to call a general election until 2022.
The law brought in by David Cameron-Levita’s government in 2010 mandates a general election in 2022. It can happen before 2022, but that date is the backstop.
At present, the Conservatives have no chance of getting a Commons majority or even being the largest party in the Commons without a majority, if a general election were to be held this year. I have long held the view that a general election could be held in 2019, and it might well be held. The msm (again) lag behind and now the most likely date is indeed thought by the msm to be 2019, once the Conservatives elect Theresa May’s successor. It seems to be the msm/System wisdom-of-the-moment that the new Conservative leader will want to have his or her election approved by the votes of the people. I wonder. Now, however, we have to factor-in Brexit Party.
I begin to think that the general election will be delayed until 2020, 2021 or even 2022.
It has been a convention not amounting to a Constitutional convention that, when a Prime Minister of the UK stands down, the successor holds a general election to “sanctify” the new order via public approval expressed in votes. Those Prime Ministers afraid to do that (rapidly) usually lose out. Look at Gordon Brown. However, the situation now may impel a different decision.
When Theresa May goes, her successor will have to face the fact that Brexit Party is taking somewhere between a third and a half of Conservative votes. If the new Conservative leader calls a 2019 General Election, it will be akin to a turkey voting for Christmas. The chance of a Conservative win (meaning a Commons majority) would be unlikely. There is every chance that the Conservatives would lose seats. There is every chance that the Conservatives would lose many seats. There is a good chance that Labour would be the largest party in the Commons and so able to form a minority government (or possibly a Lab-SNP-LibDem coalition). There is even a chance that Labour might get a Commons majority, something all but impossible prior to the emergence of Brexit Party.
Faced with the above, the new Conservative leader might simply refuse to call a General Election (in effect, leaving aside the details) until (as would be hoped, no doubt) the enthusiasm for Brexit Party wanes. Who knows what might happen in a year, or three years?
There is another point here. The boundary changes decided upon a few years ago take effect in 2022. Reduction of MP numbers from 650 to 600. The seats lost will mostly be Labour and LibDem seats. If a General Election is deferred until 2022, the Conservatives will be about 30 seats better off.
A risky stratagem, and one that could backfire, but it might be the only chance for the Conservative Party.
The tweet below displays typical twitterati wishfulness: says “must” when he means “can” or, indeed, “need not”…
Update, 18 May 2019
Straw in the wind?