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Skip to the End

Six weeks isn’t a particularly long election campaign, as Americans will attest, but when you just want to skip to the end and glory in the annihilation of an entire political party it feels like an age.

Fortunately, there’s no sign halfway through that anything other than annihilation awaits the Tories. Sunak’s National Service announcement had little immediate effect, although it might have shored up their vote among their elderly base; a subsequent poll suggested it picked them up a couple of points. So, one such announcement a week, a “bring back hanging” here, a “change Snickers back to Marathons” there, and who knows, they could reach 29% by the election.

At one point in their flailing around, the Tories announced they would get rid of university courses that don’t lead to employment (but wouldn’t say what those are) and would introduce a hundred thousand new apprenticeships while Labour would halve them. The latter attack line was because Labour plans to change the funding for training to allow non-apprenticeship training to benefit as well. Meanwhile, universities are in a bad way, with international student numbers down by a third from a year ago thanks to government immigration policies.

The signs are still that voters are intent on making this the punishment election. This projection might be too much to hope for, but it would be so glorious to have the Lib Dems become the Opposition: imagine the impact on the Overton Window if national debate were between them and a Labour government rather than Labour and a Tory one. Carol Vorderman, for one, is counting down the days:

They’re going to be absolutely annihilated, as they deserve to be. … They know that they’ve lost. My mission is to absolutely eviscerate them. Not just that they lose, but that they can’t even form the Opposition. And we can do it—it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Vorderman is part of The Movement Forward and StopTheTories.Vote, the tactical voting campaign aimed at giving us the tools that will let us do more than just guess how to vote them out. Electoral Calculus does seat projections, and even lets you plug in your own figures.

Senior Tories are already lobbying to take over from Sunak, including Priti Patel, Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick, Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt and Grant Shapps—a roll-call of venal mediocrity—but many are facing losing their seats and may not get the chance. In an acknowledgement of what awaits them, they’re now shifting to scare stories of a “Labour supermajority” and ten prospective years of Starmer as PM, as if a supermajority is somehow more of a majority than an 80-seat majority. In the Westminster system the size of a majority doesn’t make much practical difference, unless it’s a bare majority and an individual crossing the floor could kill a bill. I suppose, though, that it will mean fewer opposition MPs to form a shadow cabinet or sit on committees. They’ll have to parachute in more Lords—Baron Cameron of Chipping Norton could be one of the last senior Tories left.

As for their bleating about the need for a “strong opposition”, they can barely bring themselves to aknowledge that they might not be the opposition. And the idea that one party might remain in government for a whole decade and do who knows what to the country! The horror.

 

Ale-quaffing amphibian Nigel Farage, who has predictably re-emerged mid-campaign as leader of Reform, now fancies himself as “leader of the opposition” and has been demanding a one-to-one debate with Keir Starmer. This time around, though, his party is unlikely to pick up more than a few seats, although it’ll cost the Tories many more. In the longer term, the risk is that he’ll pull off a reverse takeover of the Conservative Party.

Reform candidates give an ominous indication of what could await us if Farage’s party does successfully usurp the Conservatives, with one having posted online two years ago that Britain should have stayed neutral towards Hitler and that women should be deprived of healthcare until their life expectancy falls to that of men. Reform dismissed this discovery as “offence archaeology”: a striking catchphrase, but one I hope we resist the temptation to adopt. Its implication that people are looking for reasons to take offence by combing through ancient material plays right into the hands of those who want to downplay their past, even when it’s well dodgy. Looking into multiple public comments made two or three years ago isn’t “archaeology”; two or three years ago is the sort of timeframe you could easily confuse with one year ago (“did that happen last year or the year before?”). This is what that candidate has said in the contemporary moment—and boy is it offensive.

Adapted from my comments at Mefi.

16 June 2024 · Politics