The leadership contest to replace Theresa May is in full swing, and high hopes are resting on the winner being able to revive the Conservative Party’s fortunes.
Boris Johnson is the current clear favorite. He understands very well that his party’s previous decision to delay the Brexit date was a disaster, so it would be very surprising if he continues that tradition this October.
But his commitment to Brexit is more pragmatic than ideological, and he is open to leaving with or without a deal, as is Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. For a genuine no-dealer, look to the lesser-known Dominic Raab.
Another front runner is Michael Gove, who only wants a deal and is not wedded to the current leave date. But, as Nigel Farage has stated, “If they don’t take us out on October 31st, what is the point of the Conservative Party?”
The Conservatives have been struggling to answer that one ever since they removed Margaret Thatcher as prime minister over her lack of enthusiasm for the EU — even though she had just won her third election in a row and with a majority of 102 MPs.
It is almost 29 years since that infamous deed, and they have since scraped just two outright election victories and with a fraction of Margaret Thatcher’s majorities. Their two other administrations required the support of other parties. They also spent 13 long years out of power.
It is ironic that the party that forced Lady Thatcher to resign for being too euro-sceptic now finds its very survival depends upon being able to deliver Brexit. Poetic justice?
The other reason for its decline was its calculation that by ditching most of Margaret Thatcher’s core values it would become popular again. This left turn was encouraged by none other than Theresa May who, as party chairwoman in 2002, told Conservative members, “Let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a way to go before we can return to government. Our base is too narrow and so occasionally are our sympathies. You know what some people call us, the nasty party.”
They embarked on a “please like us” progressive-globalist agenda similar to the one Tony Blair had successfully pioneered with his “New Labor” party five years earlier. But why vote Tory when you could still get Tony?
The difference between the two parties was reduced to the amounts of money they were willing to spend on roughly the same things. But eventually they were helped by Labor electing the Marxist Jeremy Corbyn as leader who began taking his party even further left.
However, neither party was willing to address the biggest voter concern of all, which was the dismantling of the U.K. as a nation-state within the ever-growing European Union — death by treaty.
It took Nigel Farage to articulate those fears and his popularity has soared. Instead, Mrs. May followed her predecessor, David Cameron, who had followed his predecessor, King Canute, in attempting to turn back the tide.
Now Mrs. May too has been washed away by Brexit, but the mess she created over her expensive withdrawal deal still needs to be cleared up.
A no-deal exit means initially trading on World Trade Organization tariffs. Because the EU exports more to the U.K. than it imports it is likely they would suffer most and so could then become amenable to signing a genuine free trade deal with Britain — with no 39 billion fee.
But the uncertainty over such a precipitous change still frightens many within this predominantly “Remainer” parliament and some MPs are determined to stop it. This panic has led to Conservatives working with Labor and Liberal Democrat MPs to try to bring down their own government.
These rebels have already managed to stop the no-deal exit in April. Now former attorney general Dominic Grieve is plotting with one of the leadership hopefuls, Rory Stewart, and others to thwart a no-deal exit in October, possibly through a no-confidence motion. Appropriately, Mr. Stewart was once the minister for Prisons.
By continuing to defy or redefine the will of 17.4 million people, these zealots are taking Parliament into unchartered territory. When Oliver Cromwell felt his “long parliament” had become too self-serving he berated its members with, “Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation In the name of God, go!”
Nigel Farage is politer, but challenges the wisdom of this current obduracy. He warns, “Do they have any idea what a second betrayal will do to their party?”
Brexit is causing a fundamental shift in the axis of British politics from the current two-party system that was born out of the class divide, into “Leave” vs. “Remain,” or nation-state democracy vs. globalism.
Maybe the century-old choice between the Conservatives and Labor for government will be replaced one day by the Brexit Party and the Liberal Democrats.
• Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.
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