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Tories must be mad as they lurch to the Left

By Nigel Hastilow | In-depth | Published:

As Enoch Powell once pointed out: ‘Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.’

The one-time MP for Wolverhampton South West wasn’t talking about the Conservatives but it certainly applies to the party today.

A madness seems to have taken over the Tories from Prime Minister Theresa May to the lowliest Grant Shapps.

They seem to have lost the plot. And it’s Brexit which is causing their meltdown. It’s Jeremy Corbyn. Jezza has gone from a political joke to a clear and present danger in just a few months thanks to the ill-timed and disastrous General Election.

The unthinking popularity he has won – especially among young voters – has traumatised the Tories so much they don’t know where to turn.

They seem to think the answer is to become a Blairite party embracing all but the most expensive and extreme policies of the new model, hard-left Momentum-led Labour loonies.

Fears

Bizarrely, they seem to be pinning their hopes on Chancellor Philip Hammond to deliver such a wonderful Budget next month that somehow all their fears will be allayed.

‘Spreadsheet Phil’ is supposedly going to offer new, lower tax rates for younger voters at the expense of older workers, possibly by turning the screw on pension contributions.

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It is true the young are short of money. House prices are too high, especially in London and the South East. Rents are also excessive. And thousands have been lumbered with student debts which will take decades to pay off.

But if the Conservatives seriously think a bit of tinkering with the tax system and some modest relief of student debts will suddenly win back all those under-30s who have flocked to the Corbyn cause, they really are doolally.

Most young voters are true believers having spent their formative years in the vehemently anti-Tory State education system. And they can see through the transparent, but half-baked, attempts to woo them over to the Conservatives through watered-down versions of Labour’s policies.

Young people don’t realise most of the policies they so object to – tuition fees, a block on house-building, public-spending austerity – were originated by Labour Governments or imposed on the country because of their incompetence.

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If you got beyond the coughing and other irritants and listened to Theresa May’s party conference speech, you would have realised how far she was lurching to the left.

Unlike Tories in the past, she believes in ‘big Government’. No free-marketeer would announce a price cap on energy prices of the sort the Tories condemned when Ed Miliband came up with the idea. She announced a new council house-building programme. From the party that gave us council house sales and the property-owning democracy, this is a major U-turn.

Yet Labour is already in the market to build a new generation of council houses. Presumably Mrs May thinks she needs to steal its policies to survive. That must be behind her student loan reforms. Mrs May does not have the financial idiocy of Jeremy Corbyn and realises she cannot simply write off the £100bn already borrowed. So she offers a few modest concessions which don’t impress anyone. Now, cornered by Corbyn, the Government is abandoning austerity. Instead of trying to balance the books and protect young people from ever-greater State debt, the Tories plan to spend more money they haven’t got.

Despite a national debt of almost £2 trillion, it’s springtime for the magic money tree. Mrs May has succumbed to Labour pressure to loosen the purse-strings though it’s unlikely a modest pay rise will win public-sector workers over to the Tories.

It would be hard enough for a Prime Minister to keep the show on the road with a minority Government at the best of times. But this is made far worse by the Brexit impasse. The Brussels mafia want to punish Britain for leaving their club so they are dragging their feet, making impossible demands and exploiting every weakness.

Our confused and rudderless Government plays straight into their hands. There is no agreement over what we want, let alone how to get it. Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers are plotting and conspiring but to what end?

There seem to be no policies or principles these people won’t abandon in their desperation to appeal to voters who won’t ever support them.

The time has come for the Tories to decide: do they really want to turn their backs on everything they have stood for? If so, they might as well make way for Labour now. If they don’t, they need a leader who stands for something, believes in their traditional strengths and virtues and is not afraid to say so.

Not Boris, Jacob Rees-Mogg. He may be ‘the Member for the 18th century’ but he’s one of the few Conservatives left who isn’t, in Margaret Thatcher’s word, ‘frit’. The country really does need someone with strength, backbone and belief. At least with the Moggster we’d get a clear choice between left and right.

Nigel Hastilow

By Nigel Hastilow

Express & Star columnist

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