First there were eight, then there were 11, equalling the total number of Liberal Democrat MPs in the House of Commons. Three MPs left the Conservative Party to sit with the newly-formed Independent Group, citing Brexit as the bigger issue, but also issues with the party’s handling of welfare and immigration.
As someone who self-identifies as a centrist, I sympathise with many Conservative Party policies, as I do with many from Labour. Under David Cameron, the Conservative Party was a pro-European, pro-immigration, pro-‘big society’ party that had somehow managed to shake off the moniker of the ‘nasty party’, ironically coined by Theresa May, and had come to be attractive to those average working people that for so long, had felt alienated by a party who once seemed only interested in lining the pockets of the richest and wealthiest in society.
However, everything I’ve just described may be my memory playing tricks on me. Everything I’ve just described could in fact, be down to the influence of the Liberal Democrats during the coalition government, as when David Cameron returned a Conservative majority government in 2015, things started to go downhill.
A poorly thought-out overhaul of the welfare system that has seen thousands of working people turn to food banks, and in the most extreme cases, sick and disabled people deemed fit for work, take their own lives. A bitterly divisive referendum that no one in government properly planned for. A party that is now abandoning the long-standing perception of economic competence, in favour of delivering the wishes of a small group of hardline Eurosceptics. A party that is being infiltrated by members of the hard-right in the form of ex-UKIP members, a party that has recently appointed EDL founder Tommy Robinson as a special advisor.
The Conservative Party appears to be trying to tick every item on the list of stereotypes about itself, which I guess is fine, but it doesn’t really echo the encouraging words of Mrs May on the steps of 10 Downing Street two years ago.
Similarly with the Labour Party, Brexit has been the Tories’ biggest undoing. The European Research Group, led by 19th Century dandy fop Jacob Rees-Mogg, now has a vice-grip on the party and is shaping almost everything the government attempts to do when it comes to Brexit. Conservative MPs who speak out against them or against Brexit are denounced as saboteurs and enemies of the people, with vile and horrific abuse and threats hurled at them online and more recently, in person.
The party that for so long has prided itself on being economic masters now refuses to rule out self-inflicting catastrophic economic damage on our country, for the sole purpose of delivering the so-called ‘will of the people’. They didn’t listen to the ‘will of the people’ when they demonstrated against such harsh austerity of public funding cuts; they didn’t listen to the nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers when they were told they needed more funding, so why are they now suddenly hell-bent on only listening to the most extreme voices in their midst?
I actually don’t have an answer, which is why this whole thing is so frustrating. A party obsessed with appeasing the Rees-Moggs, obsessed with immigration, and a party obsessed with the idea they have a God-given right to govern. I think that’s what it is. I think party will literally do anything to stay in power, even if it means abandoning some the things its holds so dear.
It’s no longer the party of Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher. It’s not even the party of Theresa May! It’s the party of Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davies and Boris Johnson. And that they are the governing party sends shivers down my spine.