It should surprise nobody that our airwaves are abuzz with analyses of this week’s local election results. With over 1,300 Conservative councillors suddenly separated from their expense accounts, it’s inevitable that more than a couple of columnists have noticed that the Tories have returned their worst local election results since the rout of John Major in 1995. We all know what happened a couple of years later when New Labour swept all before them.
While this is a useful yardstick to measure the scale of the catastrophe, the simple arithmetic glosses over a deeper and more fundamental connection those two electoral nightmares. This is a case where superficial differences hide a deeper and more fundamental thread of continuity.
That thread is, of course, the European Union and Britain’s perennially uneasy place inside it.
It’s worth noting that Margaret Thatcher survived the miners’ strike, the Falklands gamble and even the Poll Tax fiasco, but it was her steadfast opposition to the Maastricht Treaty and the creation of the European Union that finally galvanised her own party to wield the knife. Pundits can wax lyrical about Michael Heseltine’s principled stance on the Westland issue, but it’s no coincidence that he’s now uttering his ermine-collared judgements on the horrors of Brexit from the safety of the upper chamber. That a senior frontbencher would knowingly weaken his own party in order to remove a major obstacle to European integration should tell you much about the true loyalties of the Tory grandees.
Following Thatcher, John Major was duly installed as a compliant facilitator of the EU project. The Maastricht Treaty was then ratified with Opposition support, despite fierce resistance from Tory and some Labour rebels. The sense of deja vu is hard to escape.
Today we see the mirror image of Thatcher’s downfall playing out before us. Instead of the party manoeuvring to remove a hated leader and a proven liability, the 1922 Committee chose to support an unsustainable status quo in order to keep an overwhelmingly popular leadership candidate out of office! Loathe Boris Johnson or love him, there’s no doubt that he’s much admired by the Tory rank and file and the evidence shows they would handily elect him as leader of the party.
Once again we see the true loyalties of the Tory high command revealed. They would rather watch their own party go down in flames and risk a hardline socialist government than allow a popular Brexiteer anywhere near the top job.
Theresa May has no intention of resigning and will be harder to starve out of Number Ten than Gordon Brown. Despite all the noise from the electorate and the Tory rank and file, the party machine will ensure that Theresa May stays put until the capitulation of her dreadful “deal” is complete. One way or another.
That should tell you everything you need to know.
Image courtesy of Golin Doorneweerd-Swijnenburg at freeimages.com