Fraser Nelson of the Spectator and Mike Smithson of politicalbetting have both picked up on a throwaway remark in the Financial Times. Its journalists said
“One Downing Street insider said the prime minister was more relaxed because he now realised that he was certain to lose the next election and was powerless to defy political gravity.”
As Mike comments,
“Whatever the truth of this it takes the government into very dangerous territory and could make the whole task of the party stopping the Tory onslaught even more challenging. For the last thing you should do is, even by such a convoluted route, let it appear that you know that you are beaten. It’s going to be hard enough motivating activists as it is and what is it going to do to fund-raising?”
Just so. If a football team goes onto a pitch muttering to itself that it doesn’t have a chance, it isn’t just beaten it is thrashed. You have to fool yourself, hold on to the hope that you have a faint chance, if you are to stop a defeat becoming a rout.
Politicalbetting also picks-up on a comment of mine that the election campaign will not help. “The campaign will be a massacre because we will have four weeks of Cameron – whom you can’t help liking even if you disagree with him – vs Brown – whom you can’t help disliking even if you agree with him. Night after night on every bulletin.”
Put together Cameron’s undoubted appeal and the demoralisation of his opponents and it is reasonable to imagine a Conservative landslide. I can also reasonably imagine many Standpoint readers being delighted by the prospect of Labour losing 150 or so seats and the Tories returning in force. But large majorities are not only bad for the country – we need a strong opposition to hold the government to account – but paradoxically are bad for the victor’s foot soldiers. If you doubt me, look at the experience of Labour MPs who saw Tony Blair ignore their pet causes safe in the knowledge that if they rebelled it would not matter because he could win every vote. The same applies to Conservatives. The larger his majority, the easier David Cameron will find it to ignore his core voters.
There is another point to consider. What type of MP are we going to get in the new Parliament? Denis MacShane had a great piece in the Observer, which is worth reading in full. He looks at the Tory MPs being forced out by Cameron. Anthony Steen, for instance, may have been hammered by the media for his expense claims but he was “a lone voice in the Commons raising with a persistence bordering on the manic the plight of young children who disappear from local-authority care. He has single-handedly made into a Commons issue the hidden slavery of young girls trafficked as prostitutes to satiate the dirty old men in our community. When he goes, who will speak for these voiceless teenage victims of the sex trade?”
I look at the victorious Conservative candidate in Norwich North, and wonder whether she will ask awkward questions or tell the whips to back off. Maybe she will. Sometime in the 2020s.
As MacShane puts it
The Commons now has to say farewell to QCs – no more John Smiths or Quintin Hoggs. Farewell to doctors or dentists who still want to practise – forcing Howard Stoate, MP and GP, to retire. The new rules make writing an article or a book all but impossible. When I told the Commons authorities that a book review I published recently was written on a Sunday in a snatched free hour, they said that MPs have no free time of their own and anything I write must be reported to them.
Tory wannabe candidates are now going through a five-hour interview as if they were applying to join the civil service. The odds and sods, the cranks and campaigners, the youthful Hagues and Blairs, will all be excluded.
Welcome to the new House of Commons, courtesy of the Barclay brothers and a British public going through one of its periodic fits of morality. In signing our allowance claim forms, did MPs realise we were signing the death warrant of the idea of independent professional political representative democracy? We have only ourselves to blame, but the consequences for democracy may be dire.”
If they wish to see their causes prosper, true Tories should do everything they can to avoid a landslide victory. If that means voting Labour, then vote Labour you must.