Brexit and Conservatism

5th July 2019

The Conservative Party has long been a mix of ideologues and pragmatists.

The pragmatic tradition was strong – associated with RA Butler and politics being the art of the possible.

Even Margaret Thatcher was far more pragmatic in policy – at least before 1987 – than her fans both at the time and since would admit.

But that pragmatic tradition seems to now be weak.

There are still a few sensible senior Conservatives, even Ministers, but they appear powerless in the face of shouty populism.

Applied to European Union matters, Tory pragmatists once wanted to make things work.

In the 1980s the (in my mind) second most significant Conservative politician of the time – Lord Cockfield – pushed forward the Single Market in a practical and sustainable way rather than through grand design and heady rhetoric. 

My January 2017 FT piece on Lord Cockfield is here. In it I said:

“In 1985, Cockfield (with the full support of the then commission president Jacques Delors) produced his famous white paper in a matter of weeks, and so sound and thought-through was its content that it was used as a blueprint thereafter. In 2016-17, the entire government has produced nothing other than platitudes and unconvincing excuses for secrecy.

“The UK may have had a Cockfield to put the single market in place, but it certainly does not have one to take the UK out of the EU.”

This is still the case, over two years later.

Brexit could have been done (regardless of the merits of the idea) but it needed a realistic and unideological approach.  

No silly speeches, no daft “red lines”, no loud promises of the impossible just so as to get claps and cheers from grinning idiots.

Instead, Brexit was done in perhaps the worst possible way.

How this came to happen will be a matter for debate and reflection long after the current events are over.

But one remarkable thing is how the Conservative Party which once valued unshowy pragmatism ended up so shallow and ineffective.

And another remarkable thing is that, three years after the referendum, Conservative MPs and members are set to elect as leader a politician who personifies the very shallowness and ineffectiveness of its Brexit policy.

Getting policy wrong is bad – but not learning any lessons whatsoever is arguably worse.

Many people reading this post will not be Conservatives (and may even have Very Strong Opinions on that party). 

But I am not (and this blog is not) party partisan: there are good and bad in most mainstream political parties.

My point is that it is sad and unfortunate that the political party which in a matter-of-fact way took the UK into the EEC, drove forward the Single Market, sponsored enlargement, and was a useful brake on the the heady excesses of the EU project, has become such a shambles.

The Conservative Party is no longer about the art of doing the possible, but about the artlessness of promising the impossible.


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51 thoughts on “Brexit and Conservatism”

  1. In your condemnation of the current Conservative Party, you rightly praise its contribution to accession and the Single Market but also say “sponsored enlargement”. In fact, while enlargement was on the horizon during the Major years it only became effective, and the UK support only became really significant, post 1997. But it’s true that the Conservatives, in opposition, never spoke against it, and implicitly supported the “widening not deepening” approach which some see as so costly later on.

    1. That is a fair comment – I recall the post 1990 demands of the Conservatives to open the EU to the former Eastern bloc.

  2. Excellent piece. Would that all Conservative Party members would read, mark and inwardly digest. The Economist was saying something similar a few months ago… But this is even clearer. Thank you.

  3. Very good. The absence of any realism within the most educationally well endowed is extraordinary. Non partisan commentary is so refreshing – please keep it up.

  4. Thank you Mr Green

    Several life long (One Nation) Tory voters, one of whom was a Conservative party member and activist, told me that they had voted Lib Dem at the recent European Parliament elections. They knew I was a Lib Dem member and we have had some good, vigorous discussions in the past. They also told me they could not vote Tory under a party led by Johnson.
    Have thought for a while that the One Nation Tories have lost their party – in fact am not even aware that they have put up any form of a fight as their party has slid remorselessly (in all senses of the word) to the right.

    I suppose it is helpful to be able to see with clarity those who are prostrating themselves at the feet of that utter shyster Johnson, but it is still stomach-churning to watch people from whom one had hoped better – Javid and Hancock as examples – sacrifice themselves on the altar of vain ambition.

  5. A fine blog.
    As an aside, wasn’t the UK understanding that the ‘price’ of German reunification was that the EU expand eastwards to embrace former Soviet satellites? This also honoured our ‘commitment’ to Poland made over 50 years earlier.

  6. I think this sums it up nicely. I also think the main problem both the main parties have is that in general the voting public have become disengaged from the political parties which now have very small memberships. As a result they have both been infiltrated by the extremes of the party leading to what we see today.

  7. What surprises me is the ERG/Johnson/Hunt obsession with the “Irish backstop” – presumably because of the DUP’s fundamental rejection of it, and any regulatory border (and border checks) in the Irish Sea ports. But such a regulatory border (which need not, or barely, affect individual travellers, especially not UK and Irish nationals) should not be of any concern to the people and companies in mainland Britain. And my guess is that the majority of the voters in Northern Ireland would happily live with that, if it meant the NI/Republic of Ireland border was kept open. The EU offered this to the UK – but the May Government rejected it because the DUP rejected it. But why not ask all of the people in NI of their views on this? I.e., a referendum on the backstop, confined to NI. If the majority of the NI electorate voted in favour of an Irish Sea Regulatory Border with no border on the island of Ireland, surely that would resolve the current impasse? (Even if the DUP/ERG et al.) would not like it. Now that would be both pragmatic and principled …

    1. If Johnson becomes PM and in due course calls an election, and if he wins a big enough majority so that he doesn’t have to rely on the DUP, then perhaps he could get away with doing what you suggest. But what a gamble. Would he call an election before we have jumped over the Brexit cliff? And if we have jumped without some form of WA parachute then would it be too late to introduce the border in the Irish Sea?

    2. Sadly that looks like a smugglers charter to me and how do you know who is a UK or Irish national without stopping them at a border control?

    3. my Leaver community is divided on the subject of introducing a border in the Irish sea. My view is that the border issue is solvable, but the EU is refusing to solve it in order to force the UK to yield on terms at the negotiation. Hence, if the only thing stopping the UK getting a decent deal is the backstop, then crash out of the EU on not deal, sort out the border, then agree a deal. Of course the EU could still refuse to sort out the border issues; well, so be it,

      @ Roger Chapman “a smugglers charter to me and how do you know who is a UK or Irish national without stopping them at a border control?” – controls don’t operate at the border. Once someone from, say, the Ukraine gets into the UK they cannot get a job or rent a house without proof of entitlement. Similarly with goods, regulatory checks are required at all stages not just entry to the EU.

      1. Unfortunately, this “so be it” line is the critical issue for those working to protect the UK and its citizens from harm.
        Job losses? So be it.
        Shrinking economy? So be it.
        Social damage? So be it.
        Failure of public services? So be it.
        The long-term shift of economic activity to Europe? So be it.

        There is simply no way that any Prime Minister serving the interests of the country can consciously take this course on the basis of a tight referendum result that happened over a thousand days previously. There any many that will deny these consequences are likely. They are wrong, either through a refusal to face the facts or from listening to voices with hidden motivations that are sadly misaligned with their own.

        My strong suspicion is that both Hunt and Johnson are well aware of this and their talk of a no-deal Brexit is playing to their immediate electorate and possibly in some hope that it strengthens their hand in any upcoming talks with the EU. This will come as a nasty shock to their brexiteer supporters. Reality is coming, and it’s not interested in your opinions.

        1. There is no reason for believing in the long run that any of the items you list will have been significantly impacted by Brexit. The predictions you mention have been made by people with clear vested interests and records of getting things consistently wrong.

          Furthermore, lobby groups like the CBI have been allowed to make cost-free comments which have been reported as fact. They have made no commitments on jobs, investments, or pay if we remain in the EU, so I regards their comments as nothing more than personal pleading.

          1. > I regards their [“lobby groups like the CBI”] comments as nothing more than personal pleading.

            So…you believe that a membership organisation that for decades has aimed to serve and represent *the entire U.K. business community* is only opposing Brexit in general (and No Deal in particular) because that reflects their members interests?

            Yes, we agree completely.

          2. There are plenty of very good reasons for believing these things are material risks, and the Brexiteers line on this seems to have shifted to accepting harms, but saying it is not all about money. I know of no serious analysis that predicts anything other than economic harm, a smaller economy, social damage arising from pandering to the far-right and serious strains on social services as the tax base reduces, many wealth creators leave and the elderly become more vocal, radicalised and demanding.

            If you accept or blithely ignore such serious risks to the country, you need to be sure the up-side is really, really worth it, and that I cannot see.

      1. Many thanks for directing me to your paper. Leaving the idea of a bridge to NI aside :) I think it explores the issues really well – and shows the real block to a solution is the DUP’s irrational and rigid stand, and Theresa May’s wrongheaded subservience to it.

    4. You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head.

      I live in Dublin and we travel frequently to Scotland on the ferries from Northern Ireland. We cross the border into Northern Ireland on a busy motorway, teeming with commercial traffic comprising many thousands of individual lorries every day.

      But the ferry check ins are completely different. As things stand, the lorries are checked in separately and subject to security and other checks. Cars are subject to security inspections including random checks on luggage. The “Northern Ireland only” backstop could have been implemented without ANY any significant change to the existing regime. And opinion polls have consistently suggested that the majority in Northern Ireland could live with the regime.

    5. Neither Hunt nor Johnson will pursue this sensible option, as the DUP will threaten to stop propping up the Government’s working majority.
      This will lead to a vote of no confidence then a coalition or a general election.

      1. Fair point. But the threat of no deal will also lead to a vote of no confidence then a coalition or a general election … :)

    6. Nope. The EU didn’t offer it. It was a UK proposal which the EU agreed to. The UK then requested an UK-wide backstop after Arlene Foster and her DUP mates had a strop and told Mrs May that it was unacceptable. The EU was strongly opposed to this as it could be a way for the UK to retain market access indefinitely but eventually conceded it. Now even this is not acceptable to the UK despite the govt having signed up in writing, twice, and promised that it would achieve parliamentary approval.

    7. I have little doubt that this could have happened if May had won a proper majority. However with with DUP necessary to even have a majority for almost anything in the Commons the option to ignore them or even substantively negotiate disappeared.

      The billions for Northern Ireland wasn’t the sale price of the DUP, it was the loyalty test for May’s subservience to them. And any Tory leader who wishes to avoid a general election will be in the same boat although ironically the DUP are the ones who would lose them most in any general election that did not end on a similar knife edge.

  8. Yes and no, I accept the basic premise about the art of the possible, but not the argument about the ineffectiveness of the current party. To clarify I accept the fact that the current party is ineffective over Brexit but not the reasons why that is the case.

    The reason why the current party is so ineffective is that what they promised on Brexit is undeliverable. It is one thing to promise on policy when you are the party in control of who formulates and implements policy and the issue and areas where the policy will work, or not, (even then this can be incredibly difficult – witness the Poll Tax.) It is well nigh impossible when the policy is concerned with a body over which you have almost no control – in this case, the EU.

    The problems of Brexit policy stem from having a series of objectives that were unrealisable, leaving the SEM, the CU the jurisdiction of the ECJ, not paying any membership fees and yet simultaneously promising that the UK would have access to the SEM for both goods and services, (it will be the easiest trade deal in history) being able to make and adjudicate our own laws whilst simultaneously being able to decide which EU laws we would obey and which we wouldn’t.

    The charge of cherry picking has long been forgotten, but I am afraid it will rear its ugly head again whether it is Johnson or Hunt who becomes the UK’s next PM. They still want to have their cake and eat it and think that by steadfastly stating they are prepared to leave with no deal, the EU will allow that.

    The EU may indeed allow that, all things are possible, but one would not assign a probability of more than 0.1 to the likelihood of such an outcome. There is the problem. No amount of pragmatism can square that circle, the choice always was binary, pretty wholeheartedly in or completely out, there’s nothing on offer in between those two positions, there never was. The mistake by those favouring leave, of whatever political persuasion, was in getting a majority of the referendum voters to believe there was.

    If the politicians knew, then it was dishonest and misleading, if they didn’t know, then the calibre of politicians in this country is not what it was. Leaving all that aside, what of the electorate? Caveat emptor comes to mind – be sure that what you vote for is possible, and if it turns out not to be, then change your position. It has turned out not to be possible but still, the voters demand the impossible and the politicians continue to tell them they can name that tune, they can deliver the impossible. This is not going to end well!

    1. The choice was indeed binary but the type of Leave was far from the total Leave option only you imply. There were several options from EFTA /EEA to the Turkey Customs Union alone or in conjunction with EEA membership which would have delivered an economic emulation of EU membership and kept Irish border open. Such a soft Brexit albeit at the expense of less UK democratic control could have been a landing zone for a few years and would have solved the Irish border question till a longer term solution was arrived at. The Lancaster House red lines preclude such a neat pragmatic result.

      1. Absolutely. If pragmaticists in the Conservative Party held greater authority, Norway Plus / Common Market 2.0 would have been the obvious and sensible short-term solution and, I feel, would also have carried the reluctant support of many pragmatic Remain voters. At various times Gove and others have mooted the idea; but the idea now seems almost quaint in the present circumstances.

        It was May’s poor performance in the 2017 general election which weakened her political standing within her own party and her authority within Parliament that led to the disastrous Lancaster House speech and ensnaring herself by setting those restrictive “red lines”.

        But, even so, it’s still perhaps surprising that there wasn’t a greater number of pragmatic Tory MPs to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement.

  9. I disagree with this and I with I think a previous tweet of yours stating that the Tories seemed to have abandoned the gradualism of Edmund Burke (in response to the ridiculous ‘Brexit vs destroying the union’ poll).

    The starting point needs to be an analysis not of the Tories or the UK but of the EU. The EU is work in progress, and is heading towards a top-down, centrist, command regime which makes the traditional Tory method of government impossible. The test of that came with the Cameron attempt at renegotiation in which we found out the EU would not grant us the space to address issues in the traditional UK way. What we were faced with was a choice of adopting the EU regime of downward instruction in place of upward representation, or leaving. As a Leaver, my hope is that we can get through this to a relationship with the EU that allows traditional UK politics to be resumed.

    1. But the EU DID grant us more room in the Cameron renegotiation, which added to our vetoes and opt outs gave lots of room for UK exceptionalism within the EU. But the politics said that whatever Cameron came back with (HM Queen on Euro notes, language of EU to be English….whatever) Leavers would deem it insufficient and say we had to Leave.

  10. Johnson has a long history of saying whatever is required to get the result that he wants at the time with the ability to overwrite any promise with a new one. His ‘charisma’ combined with a lack of integrity makes this possible in a Trumpian way that others, like Gove, would be instantly called out on.

    Until the deception starts offending the public, (don’t hold your breath!), we will get more of the same.

  11. This interesting piece could well have concluded by asking the question: Why has the Conservative Party changed, for the worse, in such a fundamental way?
    One answer would consider an important dimension of the UK constitution – the critical concern for maintaining the separation of powers.
    Under which of the two powers, legislative or executive, should the political party, as a highly significant entity in the governance of the state, be situated? If the apparatus of the party became too influential, it would not only straddle both these powers but could come to actually dominate one or both. Arguably this has been happening with the Tory Party.
    In the past the executive consisted of one set of ambitious Tory politicians, the Cabinet led by the “primus inter pares”, the PM, whereas the area of legislative power was where the party mainly operated. And the Tory Party apparatus tended to be dominated by another different set of individuals, some but not all of them members of one or other legislative Chamber, Commons and Lords, who tended to operate more behind the scenes, less publicly. The valuable roles performed by those individuals included keeping the PM and Cabinet in the best condition to govern well (e.g. by ensuring balance between the inevitably highly-competitive ministers vying for personal advance, and balance between competing factional interests, such those for and against closer cooperation with the major European countries now grouped within the EU. Another role would have been to identify and help advance individuals, like Lord Cockfield, who possessed a particular set of useful talents and expertise but who were not politically competitive enough to want to “fight it out” with rivals to achieve the highest levels of executive, i.e. ministerial, power.
    This necessary separation of powers, represented by these two different sets of powerful people, is lost when both the party and the government are run from 10 Downing Street.

  12. I am afraid your comments are all too accurate. I worry that it will only get worse. Mrs May’s government opted very quickly put in place its red lines which made a “hard Brexit” inevitable once it agreed the process for departure set out by the EU. This has had the effect of polarising opinions amongst the general public.
    Whoever becomes PM seems desperate to have a swift exit from the EU. If successful we should soon have an indication as to how much damage the UK is likely to suffer economically and politically. If the damage is serious then those politicians who been claiming Project Fear will be looking for scape goats- EU ? That could make future trade negotiations even more difficult.
    On the other hand if Brexit is called off , will that lead to even more polarisation of opinion?

  13. As one has come to expect an excellent piece.

    To me the problem with the current Conservative Party is not only the weakening of the pragmatic element in the party it is the lack of any positive idea of Conservatism and of any coherent Conservative tenets: why the party exists and how and by what means its ideas might improve the lives of people. The party at present is dominated by very loud and dominating voices expressing in rather crude terms only what they do not like. To me UKIP Lite + elements of the Tea Party’s ways present a mix that holds no attractions whatsoever.

  14. The prime-mover in all this was David Cameron. He went to Brussels with a ‘back of the fag packet’ list of UK requirements, upon which he does not appear to have consulted anyone much. He instituted a(nother) referendum which did not neutrally present the facts (or at least the factual unknowns) and did not require a qualified (super-)majority for actions based on the outcome of the referendum.
    Through the Brexit (and Scots Indyref) referendum, Cameron has done more damage to the long term future of the United Kingdom than Herr Hitler managed in 6 years of conflict.

  15. The referendum set the tone. Here you have a complex issue: leaving the EU. Complex and complicated are not the same thing. Complicated means a very long set of rules and actions. Think of a recipe with hundreds of ingredients and hundreds of steps taking a few weeks. Complicated, yes, but if you follow the all the rules and steps, you get what you expected to get. Complex means multi-dimensional and maybe there is no ‘solution.’ There are more unknowns than knowns. If you get what you want it is a one of a kind. The referendum asked a binary question, yes or no. Fine for ‘do you want to eat lunch now?’ Not so fine for a complicated: do you want to take a walking, sailing, flying, swimming, biking tour of Africa? And all but impossible with ‘do you want to take a trip to Mars?’
    As my father would say: ‘ask a stupid question and you’ll get a stupid answer.’

  16. The Conservatives seem to have traded Burke for Rousseau, the deliberative assembly for the General Will, to have become a kind of Jacobin party of the right, in other words the opposite of what they have historically seen themselves as standing for. This suggests that the problem is very deep, not the kind of thing that can be solved by ‘fresh faces’ at the top. As a child of the Thatcher years I probably have my share of Very Strong Opinions about the evils of the Tories, but I respect the practical wisdom of the Burkean tradition, its scepticism of Progress and all Utopias, and I wonder where it will go in British politics, where it will find a home.

    1. disagree. As I said above, it is no longer possible for the Tories to act in a Burkean way as part of the EU, as the checks and balances that are the hallmark of Burkean government are absent from the EU and have been replaced with top-down dictat. Leaving is the way of getting Burkean politics back.

  17. How did the Conservative Party which once valued unshowy pragmatism end up so shallow and ineffective? Because they narrowed the talent pool. Time was when wealth wasn’t a bar to membership: a smart and hard-working person could make something of themselves, and it didn’t necessarily matter that they went to a comprehensive school or a polytechnic. These were the future funders of Conservative parties up and down the country. Those days have gone, first because of the price of getting a foot onto the ladder, and then after 2008 when the banks took the ladder away altogether.

    Result: the party is taken over by money from big business and their placemen and women – the 55 Tufton Street Mafia being the obvious example of this.

  18. Indeed, it’s a pity that venomous zero-sum politics of NI threatens the break-up of the UK. This is the price payable by everyone for the Tories cynical deal with the DUP, which is itself a violation of the requirement signed up to in the GFA / Belfast Agreement to be a neutral arbiter in respect of NI. Tory bad faith when it comes to Ireland changed only once, briefly, when John Major was in charge. The Tories split Ireland and so doing inflict decades of misery. Perhaps the favour will be returned, not directly by Ireland, but by consequences of their arrogance. I exempt you from this observation, as one of the minority who is both historically informed and respectful of yr neighbours.

    A reconfiguration of the UK’s constitutional arrangements now seems unavoidable, even if there was a last minute revocation of Article 50 notice.

  19. Alan Clarke once described the Conservative party as a “400 year old whore”, being pretty much open to any suitor that would provide power and influence. I fear many in the party believe that the EU has been a beguiling but ultimately deadly lover, promising to prolong British influence in Europe but secretly taking it away.

    Perhaps the issue that the Conservative party is really facing is that those things that it wants to preserve or return to are gone, forever. The barriers that created nations of people that could be easily identified as one community have reduced in size, through cheaper airfares, technological advancements in communication and trade, and so on. This is a permanent change. We buy services from around the world as a matter of course, sometimes we do it with money, sometimes we do it by selling our information to tech giants. The national institutions that Conservatives would naturally aim to preserve have lost their relevance.

    Of course, it is most galling for them that these institutions were made irrelevant by the work of Cockfield and Thatcher in their desire to create a market that encouraged value creation across the continent.

    This spasm of reaction, a frantic but ultimately futile effort to take their eggs out of the omelette, is doomed to fail. The question really is, will it destroy the Conservative party in the process, and will it damage the UK as it does so? I hope there are enough patriotic Conservative MPs to mitigate the latter.

  20. Your analysis is obviously correct, and it is a staggering aspect of modern political discourse how the word ‘conservatism’ has lost its original meaning.

    I would argue, however, that even though this phenomenon is certainly most glaringly visible in the anglophone world, it is taking place everywhere in the democratic world – except Spain (which always seems to me the most inherently conservative country in Europe), Germany, and possibly, Sweden.

    My belief is that this is due to what one could call ‘toadying creep’. The big conservative parties have always been the parties of business: both due to their broad appeal in the populace, and their general fiscal policy. Hence, they have had increasing appeal to toadies and opportunists, who, rather than trying to balance the interests of the country with those of business, have received ample support to take the parties’ policies where business wants them. To get support, these politicians always promise more than their opponent, always try to raise tensions, emphasizing divisions over unity.

    In times of peace and prosperity, this isn’t a big problem: such politicians (e.g. Berlusconi, Kurz, Sarkozy) get elected, and when the people has had enough of the pro-business policies, they get replaced. But in a time of national crisis, the lack of principles, pragmatism, and competence turns into a disaster. The spinelessness and hypocrisy of the toadies then make them use the methods they got elected by, raising tensions and creating a stab-in-the-back myth which can be exploited at the next turn. This is where the Tories are right now. The Republicans have gone one step further, trying to ensure that they will never lose an election again.

    I doubt that those for whom the term ‘conservatism’ has retained its original meaning will ever be able to return to the conservative parties. And though it is sad, I think they must bear some of the blame themselves. If they had prioritized principles over policy when choosing their politicians, i.e. if they had been less pragmatic and more ideological, the ‘toadying creep’ might not have gone this far. As so often in human affairs, an entity’s strengths often cause their downfall.

  21. Excellent blog, present a clear view on what is wrong not only with the Conservative party but with present-day politics. Labour has similar issues and that is no coincidence.
    As European Citizen living in the UK, I did accept the referendum, but not its implementation of the decision. In an adult democracy the leading party needs to consult the entire political spectrum before any such negotations start and have clarity on the conditions for an agreement before triggerint Article 50.
    Conservative party ended up being hi-jacked by EU-extremists and is now holding the entire country to ransome.

  22. I put it to you that the Conservative Party has not changed (and similarly neither has the Labour Party). Both parties’ memberships have always included a large element with a simple ideological view of the world. But both parties’ politicians (at least in power) have been dominated by pragmatists who retain power because pragmatists tend to be more effective than ideologues.

    What has changed, is that power has been increasingly ceded to the parties’ memberships. There are multiple reasons for this, but once power was ceded, it was probably inevitable that the simplistic and ideological elements in the memberships would eventually prevail.

    1. John Waterston makes a fine point with which I agree. The ultimate ceding of power was the referendum itself. Referenda are foreign and inconsistent elements in the British Constitution. Parliamentary sovereignty and popular sovereignty don’t mix – it’s putting chlorine bleach into your petrol tank. While many have adopted the Westminster model, Britain failed to adopt the Swiss model for a system in which referenda play a central part. I have noted this in other posts on this blog. My point here is simply that the UK is a ship at sea in uncharted waters without a competent captain (and no competent replacements) in which two very different navigation system are on inconsistent trajectories and are on auto-pilot. Scylla and Charybdis are the least of it. The ship could break up with Scotland floating sailing free and NI being towed by the Republic with England wrecked on the rocks and Wales righting itself.

    2. As moderate and progressive Comservative party member sadly I have to agree. What has changed is the total lack of leadership in Conservative party in that last 10 years. Simpletons have taken over that is the actual problem.

  23. I fear the Conservatives have only ever been conservative of their own power and privilege, rather than values or a way of life. Globalisation has lifted so many out of poverty around the world and created so much shared value, but I suppose this feels less like levelling the playing field and more like an attack of their rights to the kind of old white men that are often associated with the descent of the Republicans and now the Conservatives into lunacy. The behaviour of these groups is so far today from anything that could be described as civilised, honest, honourable or even socially conservative that I find it hard to draw any other conclusion. What annoys me most of all is a generation that came after the horrors of WWII, who had literally the best ride through the C20th, with free education, houses bought for a few thousand that are now a million or more, jobs for life and central positions in local and national civil society, now taking away the rights and opportunities of young people who face a much tougher environment. If Conservative members don’t like “that London” or gender fluidity or immigrants, just stick to your knitting and rant in a corner of your rural idyll pub. Please don’t destroy the UK just because you were brought up on a diet of war films and fantasist exceptionalism.

  24. I am not convinced about simplistic presentation of hard right ERG part of Conservatives party that has taken over the party as purely ideologues and presenting the more centrist Thatcher and moderate conservatives purely as pragmatic. I am a moderate centrist conservative party member. I respect Thatcher and there is plenty of “ideology” there too. If you call ideology the basic support for freedom and democracy and adherence to your basic freedom values.

    Thathcer has made possible accession of all East Europe, she said in Bruge speech:

    “We must never forget that east of the Iron Curtain peoples who once enjoyed a full share of European culture and identity have been cut off from their roots,” she declared in 1988. “We shall always look on Warsaw, Prague and Budapest as great European cities.”

    About ERG fraction they can be called ideologues in the sense they are very incompetent hence the failure to make Brexit happen. It is not about pragramtims for me is about pure incompetence of ERG and the like to defend basic UK interests.

      1. Why do you say that? Kenneth Clarke is a member of Conservative party too. The problem we have now is the lack of leadership and too many opportunists going with the flow. I am happy to say my Conservative MP is Dr. Philip Lee one of the few honourable MPs that actually fights for our true conservative values.

        You can say whatever you like, but Labours will not save the country. So realistically our only chance is more tories to come to their senses and stop Brexit and the destruction of the Union.

        Trump is literally now the world’s village idiot. Means nobody takes US seriously, despite economy/military power. Any big power need to be a country others can take seriously – a nation that stands by its promises, but also makes good on its threats. The same is hapenning with the UK now. We are laughing stock and weak.

        We can’t unite the country based on lies and fantasies. It’s time all British politicians to start telling the truth and face reality. Brexit is about the UK not about any party. The same way M. Thatcher and T. Blair have done it:Britain is much more stronger in EU.

        Brexit is the biggest loss of power in the world’s history ever. From strongest country in the Union now the UK is literally pariah state without ANY influence and friends

        UK can be part of the biggest political force in Europe the EU or follow the decisions made by others: “The choice is clear. We can play a role in developing Europe, or…what happens in the Community will inevitably affect us…EU will develop without Britain.”

        M. Thatcher

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