Carthago Delenda Est

Carthago Delenda Est

A General Election is supposed to answer the question of who runs the country, but we already have the answer for July 4th 2024: it will be Labour running the country. From their side, the only outstanding answer required is whether they have a big majority, or a very big majority. Or even a VERY very big majority.From the other side, there are other and more interesting questions: what kind of a result will the Conservatives get? And what will happen to the Conservative party in the aftermath of the election?

As the header title might indicate, I have an answer, or at least a suggestion, for the election: the Conservative Party must be destroyed. Not wounded, or defeated, but utterly destroyed. Leave no electoral stone standing one on another, salt the earth and plough it under, chisel the inscriptions from the plinths of their toppled monuments. The Conservative Party must be destroyed.

To be clear, although I* am decidedly not a Conservative supporter, I do not argue this from a hatred of the record or the values of the Conservatives: I think that the country needs a centre right party to enunciate a set of policies and principles and to fight that corner. I ask this – that the Conservative Party must be destroyed – because of what may come after.

In numerical terms, we could divide possible outcomes for the Conservatives into three bands. Firstly, the ‘comparable to 1997’ band. I would say roughly anything between 150 and 200 seats would count here. Itt says much about the current political landscape that a defeat on the scale of 1997 would be viewed as a relatively palatable – and fairly unlikely – result.

Secondly, the ‘historic defeat’, say 100-150 seats. Leaving aside MRPs and various internet analyses, this would seem to be the landing zone the Conservatives are currently aiming at: not pleasant, but survivable, and in the longer term recoverable.

Thirdly, the ‘wipeout’: under 100 seats. (Note that this could be subdivided, into ‘under 100 but still the opposition, and ‘under 100 and behind a resurgent LibDem party’, according to taste). This is where a lot of the analysis is putting the Conservatives currently. The psychological shock of such a result on the party, and the electoral mountain they would face to recover, cannot be overstated. And the fact that such a result would in no small part be due to a strong challenge from their right, would be even less easy to accept for the Conservatives. And it is that challenge from Reform UK that leads me to say that the Conservative Party must be destroyed.

For some, within and without the Conservative Party, the inquest has already begun, and the solution suggested by many is a merger with RefUK. Bring Farage into the tent, get him and any other MPs elected under the RefUK banner (back) on board, adopt some clear right wing policies, and motor back into electoral relevance as quickly as possible. Some have talked of, or called for, a reverse takeover, retaining the Conservative branding, but turning the party into Reform – Nige for leader, anyone?

And this is the nub of it. The Conservative party still has a brand. It still has valuable intellectual property. If this were a company, it would be a long-established, blue chip, FTSE 100 firm, with a strong and loyal customer base, just lacking the right product for them. After all, when the record of the last fourteen years is what it is, to still have 20-25% of the electorate professing their loyalty, it has to mean something. And what that something is, is value to a party like Reform UK.

The far right has struggled to make an electoral impact in the UK, over many elections and many incarnations: Reform UK, the Brexit Party, UKIP, and earlier iterations. The Conservatives have subsumed and sublimated many of the far right urges into a centre right hegemony with great success for many decades.

But now the Conservatives have moved closer and closer to those actual far right positions. More centrist MPs and leaders have been discarded, and those jockeying already for the post-election leadership seem comfortable with, if not enthusiastic for, those populist principles, and eager to carry out the merger, or to allow themselves to be bought out. Marrying the branding of the Conservative Party with the impulses of the far right is a recipe for disaster for our country: if the brand remains a powerful one, then those who are still unthinkingly loyal to the brand, or at least recoverable for it, will be an enormous bonus to Farage or a Farage-like successor in trying to supplant the centre right with the far right.

And so, the Conservative Party must be destroyed. A ‘1997’ result, or even a ‘historic defeat’, leaves the Conservatives’ historical aura tarnished but surviving. Only the ‘wipeout’ will suffice to turn it to rust, or dust. There must be no value, no credibility in the brand for the next generation. ‘Conservative’ must be a by word for failure, for humiliation, for all the polar opposites to success that the thesaurus affords us.

Approaching, as I am, 60 years of age, a political landscape without the Conservative Party seems almost unimaginable. I am sure a reasonable, realistic, moderate centre right will rise to succeed it. But on July 4th 2024, the Conservative Party must be destroyed.

James Doyle

*17 years and twice parliamentary candidate for the LibDems, 6 years and once a parliamentary candidate for the Greens.

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