Opinion: Brexit Fundamentalism Spurns Tory Voters, Values

by Barnaby Towns

As Parliament begins to assert itself in opposition to a no-deal Brexit, the nation awaits the result of the Conservative Party’s leadership election.  The party’s 21-year-old experiment in membership democracy—exercising the final choice when Tory Members of Parliament forward two candidates for members to choose between—has never before been used in government and hasn’t always covered itself in glory.

            The first time that members chose the leader, in 2001, they elected Iain Duncan-Smith, despite polls showing the more experienced and charismatic Ken Clarke more popular among the public.  While Tory members backed the more electable David Cameron over David Davis in 2005, their decision followed three bruising general election defeats.  

            Now the signs are that the litmus test members will apply to the two remaining candidates is, as in 2001, their views on Europe.  Back then, Duncan-Smith had made his name as a rebel backbencher opposed to the integrationist Maastricht Treaty pushed through Parliament by John Major.  But that strain of Tory nationalism is yesterday’s news.  

To be viable with true-believer members, today’s candidates must back not only Brexit but also be prepared to countenance a no-deal crash-out.  No wonder the party which once championed Britain’s role in the European Project now chooses between a candidate who compared the European Union to the Nazis and one who likened the EU to the Soviet Union.

           Even the architect of members’ enfranchisement, William Hague, notes that they are “not remotely representative of society at large or even of their voters.”  Tory members’ average age is 57—compared to 40 among the population as a whole.  Nearly three-quarters are male.  More than half live in London or the south of England, according to Queen Mary University of London data.  They constitute just 0.25% of the population .

            Two-thirds of party members favour a no-deal departure from the EU—far higher than 30% among the electorate, and a higher share than all Leave voters, YouGov finds.  Six in 10 members supported Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the European Elections, according to Lord Ashcroft Polls.  Nearly half of members would be happy to see Farage as Tory leader and two-thirds back a Tory-Brexit Party general election pact, YouGov research records.

            Shockingly, traditional Tory touchstones are far less important to members than Brexit. Almost two-thirds of Tory members are prepared to accept Scottish independence to get Brexit, while six in 10 would support Brexit even if it meant a united Ireland.  Six in 10 also would not be deterred if Brexit caused “significant damage” to the UK economy.  

Further indicating entryism, more than half of members are prepared to contemplate the party’s complete destruction to achieve Brexit, YouGov research reveals.

            A mere 5% of party members back another referendum on EU membership, per YouGov’s data, while only 15% support Remain—compared to 30% of 2015 Tory voters in a recent Survation poll.  More than half of all 2015 Tory voters aren’t prepared to suffer any financial loss at all as a result of Brexit—the general election when Tories secured an overall majority for the first time in 27 years.

            This growing gulf between Tory voters and members spells trouble for the party’s electability and the Brexit fanaticism of most members has created a chasm between the party and the electorate as a whole.  YouGov and BMG polling show that 54% of the electorate wish to remain in the EU and divide evenly on support versus opposition for a new EU membership vote.

            Such divergence extends to support for the two Tory leadership contenders among voters versus members.  In a mega-poll of 8,000 voters conducted by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, 34% of all voters back Jeremy Hunt, and 27% support Boris Johnson, with 39% undecided.  Yet members favour Johnson by between two and three to one, according to YouGov and Tory party activist website, ConservativeHome.

            Among all voters, Tories poll 22% with Hunt as leader compared to 24.5% under Johnson in Ashcroft’s polling—a far cry from 2017’s 43% that was insufficient for an overall Tory majority.  Johnson takes more support from the Brexit Party, while Hunt attracts more Liberal Democrat votes.  Hunt enjoys a 28-point lead over beleaguered Jeremy Corbyn as preferred prime minister compared to an 18-point Johnson advantage.  

Alarmingly for the traditional party of the Union, a Johnson premiership would hike support for Scottish independence to 53% north of the border, Panelbase finds.

            Brexit fundamentalists likely will deliver Johnson the Tory leadership—but not the electoral success that has eluded Conservatives since embarking upon this journey.


Barnaby Towns is a former Conservative Party special adviser 

A Divided House Will Fall

In this opinion piece, Dr Stewart Tolley argues that the Conservatives need to heed lessons from history and remain a broad church that embraces moderate views rather than pandering to the extremes. The current approach of seeking compromise via an orderly Brexit that pleases no one is being rejected by both Eurosceptics and remainers alike. Unless the party takes the fight over Europe out of the party by holding another referendum it is likely to be torn apart.

Brexit Divisions will lead to the Demise of the Conservative Party

– by Stewart Tolley –

The last few months have seen a slew of defections from the Conservative party, three MPs including former minister Anna Soubry have moved over to the pro-European Change UK (as it is now known). John Major’s Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell and former MP Neil Carmichael will join a former Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth and Boris Johnson’s sister Rachel in standing for the new party in May. On the other side, along with high profile defectors like Anne Widdecombe, there are rumours that several Tory MPs may also be considering jumping ship to Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party. Another report shows that 40% of the party’s grass roots would consider voting for the anti-European party. These two new groups represent a viable home for anyone unhappy with the direction of the Conservative party.

Former Conservative MP Neil Carmichael is among those who have switched their allegiance to Change UK.

The hollowing out of the Conservative party from both anti- and pro-EU wings should deeply worry the leadership; it highlights an existential crisis that it will find almost impossible to recover from. The only MPs remaining would be the loyalist drones and patsies who take their cue from the leadership and have probably never had an independent thought in their lives. This is not a happy thought for any right-minded Conservative.

In the end parties are strongest when they are a broad tent and appeal to a range of different voters.

Telford MP Lucy Allan controversial tweet on the Brexit Party’s choice of candidates was perceived as tacit endorsement by some observers. It illustrates the divisions in the Conservative Party.

Clearly the leadership are having sleepless nights over the Brexit party and assuaging the concerns over its own Eurosceptic wing would seem the natural thing to do. However, this focus has meant that May and her allies may be blind to a longer term threat, which actually comes from the moderate wing of the party. If they wish the Conservative party to be a viable force in the future they must not allow further moderates to leave and brand the party as one only appealing to demagogues, ideologues and right-wing fanatics.

Onward, the ‘ideas factory’ of the Conservative Party, commissioned a report which showed that only 14% of 18-24 year olds would consider voting Conservative, and only 8% if we just include women. According to the Generation Why report, the ‘tipping point’ for the age when someone is more likely to vote Conservative than Labour is now 51.

This is a shocking indictment of the current appeal ‘brand Conservative’ has among voters. It is not hard to see why, with social conservatives like Mark Francois and Peter Bone and free-market fundamentalists like Jon Redwood likely to put-off any sane, moderate or reasoned person. Shorn of the moderates the ideological balance would tip even more towards this group, which would see falling appeal across all groups, not just the young.

We actually have an idea of what a hard-right Conservative party, without the One Nation element, would look like in terms of policy. In 2013 a group of right-wing backbenchers – annoyed at the progressive programme of the coalition government – produced an ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’ outlining 40 bills they would like to see made law.

A glance over these 40 bills should frighten any One Nation Conservative. They include provisions for reintroducing Capital Punishment, withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, deterring immigrants, removing asylum seekers, brutalising the criminal justice system and trying to stop Gay Marriage through a divisive referendum. Another bill wanted to create a ‘Margaret Thatcher Day’ which although innocuous, doesn’t scream ‘open minded’ either, almost wilfully wanting to stir up division and resentment, and only supported by 13% according to a poll by Lord Ashcroft.

Of course the biggest elephant in the room among all this is the issue of Europe. The above list of bills included several that were meant to help facilitate a Brexit in 2013. The 30th Bill actually suggested triggering article 50 without a referendum! This highlights that the hard-right claim to be the champions of democracy was always a hollow platitude, being happy to take the country out of the EU without consultation.

Polls now show a consistent majority of the population regrets the referendum outcome and so willfully becoming the party of Brexit is becoming an increasingly niche pursuit. Even among Conservative voters, only 43% think that holding the referendum was a good idea. Few are going to thank the party in the future, particularly when the uncomfortable trade-offs are realised.

Young people have always been overwhelmingly pro-remain and It does not matter how much you reform apprenticeships, housing or tax, once these voters are lost they are likely to be lost forever. Few are going to be energised by a free-trade deal with the Faeroe Islands when they feel their rights as European Union citizens are being stolen by fanatics in Westminster.

The only thing that can heal the party and the country is to have a people’s vote, giving the voters the right to change their minds, as individual MPs have changed theirs over the course of the last few years.

Of course, it is important to listen to all wings of the party, but it is from the centre that elections are won. There is a reason why the Conservatives did so badly in the elections of 2001 and 2005; they produced a programme more in keeping with the ‘Alternative Queen’s Speech’ rather than the open and tolerant approach of David Cameron.

Despite all his faults, Cameron understood that the party needed to stop ‘banging on about Europe’ in order to get elected. The party now bangs on about nothing else, and the only way we can get on to other topics is to kill-off Brexit for good, which can only happen at the ballot box. If the party fails to realise this many of us will follow Soubry, Carmichael and Dorrell to Change UK.

Dr Stewart TolleyDr Stewart Tolley is Academic Director at The Past, a new online History journal catering to an audience that enjoys long reads. He also serves as secretary of the Young Conservative Group For Europe and as a committee member of Young Conservatives for a People’s Vote.

He is writing in his personal capacity here and the views in this article do not necessarily reflect those of this campaign or any other organisations he is affiliated to.

Revoke Article 50 Petition shows that a General Election is not an option for the Conservative Party

An analysis of the Revoke Article 50 petition conducted by the Conservatives for a People’s Vote campaign reveals that over 20 Conservative MPs are likely to lose their seats in the event of an election.

***UPDATE: This article was based on an initial analysis conducted on March 25 that only included seats in which the petition received more than 9,000 signatures. Final analysis of the full data at 15.00 on March 26th revealed that twice as many seats are under threat. The petition had 5.725m signatures at that time, rising at 123 signatures per minute.***

The Revoke Article 50 Petition reached 5.5 million signatures yesterday, and it is still rising by 150 signatures per minute, easily breaking the records for the highest number of signatories on the parliament petition site.

Its size far exceeds any polling that has been undertaken since the 2016 referendum, and as it automatically breaks down the signatories into their constituencies in a convenient map, it provides the best indicator of how opinion among Remainers has not changed since 2016. The strength of its message, just to revoke Article 50 rather than holding a People’s Vote, reflects the strength of sentiment among the Remain-voting public.

As with any petition, the question is whether it will be taken seriously by politicians or just be ignored.

An MP’s duty is to act in the best interest of the country, but they will always weigh any decisions they make against other factors, most notably their instinct for self-preservation and keeping their party in power.

What matters therefore is whether this petition presents any electoral threat to MPs, especially in view of the possibility of a coming election.

Simply comparing the size of their own majority to the number of signatories doesn’t give a meaningful indicator of that threat. Most will not be Conservatives: Firstly, in most constituencies they won, the Conservatives did not get more than 50% of the vote and, secondly, Conservative voters are more likely to support leaving and so be less likely to want to Revoke.

All that needs to be done is to take the current majority, divide it by two, and then work out what that number is a share of the petitioners for that seat.

The challenge to that methodology is that it assumes all the switches vote ‘en bloc’ for the party that came second in their seat. However, that assumption is not too much of a stretch as any voter motivated enough to change would do so with a purpose (to remove their Conservative MP) and would be more inclined to vote for the candidate who is best placed to do that.

That said, it is possible to look at the data and calculate what proportion of those signing the petition would need to be 2017 Conservative voters who are prepared to switch their vote in order to Remain in the EU.

*note: the initial analysis only included Conservative seats which had received over 9000 signatures. The analysis of the whole MP base paints an even bleaker picture. (see excel sheet)

The full petition data is available for download as an Excel Spreadsheet below:

Realistically, there are at least 20 of these seats that must be considered to be at a real risk. Losing those would make a majority for the Conservatives out of reach at the next election, even if they picked up a few Brexit-leaning seats.

The data indicates that the MP most likely to lose his seat is Zac Goldsmith in Richmond Park, as just 0.1% of the petition signatories in his seat need to be Conservative voters. For other Brexit-supporting MPs, such as Stephen Kerr, Theresa Villiers and Stuart Andrew, it is similarly difficult to see how they have any hope of retaining their seat.

We can also assume that MPs who have not ruled out a second Brexit vote, such as Amber Rudd and Justine Greening, are likely to be less at risk than an ERG member such as Dr Matthew Offord in Hendon.

A number of MPs who have been Remainers but continue to toe the government’s line, notably Mark Lancaster, Alex Chalk and Stephen Hammond, may also find that putting loyalty to Theresa May over loyalty to their own principles is a career-shortening move.

One MP has already taken the threat of the petition seriously. Mark Field announced on Radio 4 on Sunday that he would back Revoke on the strength of the petitioners.
(image from Parliament TV)

As we saw in 2017, nothing is certain and, when you get into an election campaign, anything can happen. However, this analysis suggests that rather than giving the Conservatives an unassailable lead in the next parliament, which some polls have suggested, Brexit is likely to hit their prospects. They could remain the largest party, but with no hope whatsoever of forming a government.


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Statement on the Resignations of Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston

Conservatives for a People’s Vote would like to express our deep sadness that three loyal and dedicated MPs have felt it necessary to leave the Conservative Party.

With the loss of moderates and large-scale, highly-organised infiltration from UKIP, the Conservative Party is very close to abandoning the sane centre of British politics. Moreover, while the leadership is driving forward to a Hard Brexit, which will crush British business, put the Unions with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales at risk and weaken the solidarity of the West in the face of Putinite aggression, we can certainly understand their frustration. These are the policies of the far left, not of the Tory Party.

Theresa May should note well that voters have been deserting the Party far faster than MPs and the pace of both sets of defections will only increase unless she escapes from the grip of the ERG and takes the fight over Brexit out of the party by putting the final say on Brexit into the hands of the voters.

The Queen’s Call on the Need for Common Ground

by Simon Allison

The Queen’s call this week for the country to find “common ground” has widely been interpreted as a comment on the current Brexit mess. Some commentators have decided it is an unwelcome hint to row in behind Theresa May’s deal and have gone out of their way to tell the Queen to mind her own business.

Simon Allison, Chairman of Conservatives for a People’s Vote

I respectfully disagree.  The Royal Family isn’t left with a very substantial role in the unwritten British constitution but it does still have the right “to encourage and to warn”.  Above all, the Queen is a symbol of the unity of our country, rising above the fray, in sharp contrast to the shabby politicking of Donald Trump.

Looking out over her Disunited Kingdom, Her Majesty has every reason to feel concern.

The 2016 Referendum was highly divisive.  It was won by only a narrow margin by the side which lied, cheated on the rules and was run by admirers of the country’s #1 enemy, Vladimir Putin, who may well have intervened in the campaign both financially and in more hidden ways.

Since then, the divisions have widened and the wound isn’t healing.  Voters in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales all say they believe that Brexit makes their nations more likely to abandon the UK.  Brexit thus threatens the viability of the Realm over which the Queen reigns. The government’s negotiations have been a disaster and it has suffered the biggest defeat in Parliament by any ruling administration, ever. That’s not just a minor inconvenience, as Theresa May seems to think, but a catastrophe, with the clock ticking down to a train Wrexit.

So, the Queen’s comment is relevant, timely and correct.  We need to find a way to get through this without descending into acrimony or violence, in word and deed.  The latter is not necessarily a given, with several Tory MPs now under police guard after receiving credible death threats and some Leave-advocates actively using the threat of mass violence in order to threaten the Commons.

But what did the Queen really mean by “common ground”?  As with most coded royal comments it is ambiguous enough to be widely open to interpretation.  The royals are well advised and politically cautious, so the idea that she is really calling on MPs to unite around the most heavily defeated proposal in British history is, well, a bit far-fetched.

The Queen has seen a lot of changes in her life and has had to swing with the punches. Flexibility is what’s kept the Family in place for hundreds of years; a very visible difference from the tunnel-visioned occupant of No 10 who keeps on going regardless of whether anyone wants her to.

If we are to find Common Ground, it isn’t around Theresa May’s deal.  So, where is it?  As with all these problems, it is easiest to focus on eliminating the moving pieces.  We know that the vast majority of MPs (probably 85% or more) and around 70% of the population (as well as the virtual entirely of British business) don’t want the No Deal Wrexit.  A similar proportion don’t like the messy compromises and vassal state-us of the May deal.  Neither of these can possibly form the basis for Common Ground..If we are to find Common Ground, it isn’t around Theresa May’s deal.  So, where is it?  As with all these problems, it is easiest to focus on eliminating the moving pieces.  We know that the vast majority of MPs (probably 85% or more) and around 70% of the population (as well as the virtual entirely of British business) don’t want the No Deal Wrexit.  A similar proportion don’t like the messy compromises and vassal state-us of the May deal.  Neither of these can possibly form the basis for Common Ground.

That leaves us with several other options:  Canada+ (essentially, full third-party status with regards to the EU – though that will not resolve the Irish border problem); Norway+ (essentially an EEA/EFTA solution which doesn’t solve the vassal state issue) and staying in the EU.

The problem is that none of these commands a majority in Parliament either.  Canada is unlikely to do so at any time soon with nearly all of Labour, a significant portion of the Conservative Party and all the other MPs except the DUP against it.  Norway has some momentum, but is unlikely to win support in the country given that it keeps free movement (a bugbear for many of those who want to quit the EU), doesn’t give us the (dubious) benefit of freedom to sign trade deals on our own; and takes away a major benefit of membership, the ability to frame the rules under which the EU works.

Staying in the EU, in contrast, does have majority support in the country and has done in the polls for a year or more. It also enjoys a majority in Parliament, though the implacable opposition of the May-byn axis is preventing that being heard.

So we are stuck.  That’s why more and more MPs are falling behind the idea of a Final Say referendum which could bring closure to the grief-ridden process upon which we have embarked.

And it’s not actually that complicated. Parliament can decide which of the multi-coloured dream-coat options for Brexit it supports – Norway, Canada or the Wrexit of no deal at all.  It can put that to the country in a ballot versus the option of staying in.

For sure, both sides would accept the result because both sides would see that the people have voted, unlike in 2016, based on informed consent.

It is not a perfect solution – but we are with Her Majesty – let us come together, as we always do, and find common ground through the ballot box.


Simon Allison is the chairman of Conservatives for a People’s Vote. This is an edited version of an article published on the Citizens For Britain website.

Open Letter: Conservatives urge MPs to ask the Public for Informed Consent on Brexit

We, the undersigned councillors, officers and representatives of Conservative grassroots organisations, past and present, have grave concerns about the direction our country is headed due to Brexit.

More than two and a half years since the EU referendum, Brexit continues to overshadow all other policy matters. Despite tireless work by the PM and civil service, the promised effortless transition to life outside the EU is not even on the horizon.

As March 29 rapidly approaches, any consensus over what should replace the current arrangement we have with our European neighbours remains elusive. The proposed deal by HMG is rejected both by Eurosceptics as well as those who wish to retain a leading role for the UK in the EU.
The prospect of crashing out of the EU with a reckless No Deal Brexit is clearly against the national interest.

We believe that there has to be another choice. We urge MPs to back the increasing calls for informed consent to be sought from the people, so Britain can either reaffirm its decision to leave the EU with a clearly defined vision for the future, or pull back from a course that could be highly detrimental to the country we all love.

As Conservatives this is not our preferred course of action. As believers in representative democracy we are generally not well disposed to the use of plebiscites and believe that the 2016 referendum was
extremely damaging, worsening divisions rather than settling them. The policy of leaving the EU at all costs obscures the underlying issues which led to the vote. Instead of addressing those issues we are in danger of exacerbating them by continuing on the present course.

Since June 2016 Britons have learned a lot about what is at stake in leaving the EU. Opinion has shifted significantly as people see the damage not just to our economy, but to social cohesion, security and our health service.

We ask you to put it back to the British people one more time.


1. Cllr Paul Bettison – Leader, Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Berkshire
2. Cllr Richard Cherry – District and Town Councillor, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
3. Cllr Christine Cherry – Town Councillor, St Andrews, Burgess Hill, Mid Sussex
4. Cllr Luke Clancy – Croydon Council, London
5. Cllr Matt Clare – Eltham South, Greenwich
6. Cllr Charlie Davis – Eltham North, Greenwich
7. Cllr Samantha England – Sprowston South East and Deputy Chair Political, Norwich North, Norfolk
8. Cllr Julian Gren, North Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
9. Cllr Peter Heydon – Executive Member Transformation & Finance, Bracknell Forest Council, Berkshire
10. Cllr John Keeling MBE – Breage, Germoe and Sithney, Cornwall
11. Cllr Stephanos Ioannou – Southgate, Enfield, London
12. Cllr Hannah Lerego – East Ward, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
13. Cllr Roger Mace – Deputy Leader of Conservative Group, Lancaster City Council, fmr Council Leader 2007-2009, Lancashire
14. Cllr Paul Messenger – Kent County Council, Ramsgate Division, Kent
15. Cllr Richard Micklewright – Ravensthorpe, Daventry, Northamptonshire
16. Cllr Tracy Moore – Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Kent
17. Cllr Peter Rawlinson – South Northamptonshire Council, Northamptonshire
18. Cllr Daniel Sargeant – Finchampstead North,  Wokingham, Berkshire
19. Cllr Adam Sykes – Clatterbridge, Wirral, Merseyside
20. Paul Verity, District Council Candidate, St Albans, Hertfordshire
21. Julian Tanner – Chair, Brentford & Isleworth Conservatives, London
22.James Terras – fmr Chair, Selkirk Conservatives Club, Selkirk, Scotland
23. Daian Akand – fmr Deputy Chaie, Young Conservatives Bermondsey & Old Southwark, London
24. Harry Bower – Student representative and fmr committee member, Oxford Brookes Conservative Association, Oxfordshire
25. Emmanuel Jannsen – Chairman, King’s College London Conservative Association, London
26. Tom Hulme – Political Secretary, Lincoln University Conservative Society, Lincolnshire
27. Liam Pem – Chair, Young Conservatives Lambeth, London
28.Charley Jarrett – Executive Council Member, LGBT Conservatives, London
29. Nicolas Maclean – fmr councillor, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 1979-90, Political Assistant to Rt Hon Margaret Thatcher MP, 1975-90
30. Rob Stanton – Former Mayor of Wokingham, Berkshire
31. Mohammed Amin, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, signing in a personal capacity

Averting Disaster: the glimmer of a new course for the Conservative Party

by Sandra Khadhouri

I have only sometimes voted Conservative, but it has always been clear to me what the Party stood for – tradition, patriotism, prosperity, opportunity, economic strength and robust defence. Not so today. The values of the Conservative party seem lost, as incompatible dynamics compete with each other and threaten to fracture its cohesion. It is a mess but recent murmurings within the party provide hope that there is a way for the Conservatives to reclaim their roots.

Two weeks before the meaningful vote, three former ministers, Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and David Willetts addressed the media with a passionate argument of how the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal betrays Conservative values and risks becoming an ‘albatross around our necks for years to come.’ Jo Johnson, the MP for Orpington, kicked off by outlining exactly how Brexit represented a bad deal for the economy, democracy, the UK’s negotiating position and the union itself.

On the economy, he stressed Brexit damage to every region, the UK’s weakening position as a global financial services hub and neglected risks to services, which constitute 80% of our economy. On democracy, he lamented the loss of our influential voice at the EU table as we become a mere passive recipient of EU policy. Far from taking back control, Johnson complained, the UK would become a colony – even his Leaver brother judged this position as far worse than staying in .

Jo referred to the ‘waffly political declaration’ and one-sided customs territory arrangement which would encourage future pressure from Macron, Scotland and the EU to concede to their demands. And, together with Justine, they discredited every other version of Brexit as inferior to full membership – from Norway for Now, to Norway for Ever, No deal, Canada…

So where does that leave us? How do we get out of this intractable situation and chart a different course, as a nation and political culture?

The MPs’ solutions were clear. In regard to the thorny question of respecting the 2016 vote, they claimed the vote had been honoured and a deal negotiated – but the gap between promises and reality was too great. In fact, the botched Brexit deal had become a distraction from actually solving problems. Johnson labelled the deal an ‘abject failure’ which did not meet the public’s demands: “No-one voted to be poorer, have less control, reduced market access or a weakening of our union.” Even worse for Conservatives, this historic mistake would usher in communist ideologues and a ‘red carpet for Corbyn.’

Justine clearly outlined the viability of another referendum – a People’s Vote – as a chance to see where the balance of opinion lies, now parliament is gridlocked. She deftly suggested answers to the technical questions lining the route to a PV, and the need for clarity and certainty in the run up. And in a unique offer, she suggested the referendum could be an opportunity, rather than a threat – a chance to reintroduce a sense of the common good to public life, business and our entire system, a way to fix our ‘broken politics’ and turn our backs on those sowing the seeds of division. Instead, we finally start to talk about real solutions to problems, perhaps involving her social mobility pledge.

This new constructive dialogue sounds ambitious given the febrile environment in which we now find ourselves. But we must start somewhere in resetting our national narrative. Jo, David and Justine have stepped up to the plate at a crucial time, declaring themselves ready to shape a future Conservative party with like-minded politicians, and take the party out of a quagmire of indefensible positions, crippling contradictions and extreme ideology. From a patriotic point of view, they articulated just how their party can reclaim its true roots and make a clear decision what it stands for. Sensible politicians like them need to start to build a well-rounded aspirational vision of Britain that caters to all its citizens, and paint a place for Britain in the world that not only helps us at home, but fulfils our profound responsibility to promote our collective strength, security and progress within the European and global context.

Sandra Khadhouri is an anti-Brexit campaigner and a supporter of the C4PV campaign

Brexit Lessons from the Commercial World

C4PV executive committee member, Daniel Poser, explains why it’s fantasy to think anyone can renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement now.

I spent years negotiating large commercial transactions for a living. A whole range of contracts from large hotel and corporate purchases to executive incentive plans. Negotiations between governments both do and do not follow the rules that apply in business.

The Article 50 negotiation has mainly been a case where comparisons to the commercial world do not hold. That is because in the commercial world, when two willing parties sit down at the table, they generally do so without a grenade ticking under the table that will blow up at a set time, agreement reached or not. The first rule of negotiation is never negotiate against a ticking clock.

The second rule is always be prepared to call No Deal and mean it. In the commercial world, that means walking away from the table and accepting that both sides revert to their position that existed before negotiations started. Impossible with Article 50 — that grenade is set to blow. So, No Deal in Article 50 terms has never meant what it means in the commercial world. Under Article 50, what it means for the UK, by the government’s own reckoning, is planes that don’t fly, ports where nothing moves, medicines that cannot be guaranteed: people who die. Political suicide.

But now we have entered a phase I do recognise. That point where you have sat up through the night as often as is necessary to get the papers into nearly final form. That point where the commercial framework and the detail have been fully negotiated and fought over. The stage where there are maybe a few details to fill in but no opportunity if you actually want to close the deal for either side to re-open the mechanisms and principles that hold the deal together and make it work.

In a corporate purchase you will probably have secured warranties from the seller that you can call on if promises made don’t turn out to be what they were held out to be. A backstop if you like.

At this final point of the deal, just before signature, you might give one large push back against the quantum of the warranties: “I know I said I’d be on the hook for my promises to the tune of £10 million but sorry I’m limiting that to £5 million before I sign”.

Not at all unheard of is a last minute price cut from a confident buyer who knows that the seller will probably go for the certainty of a deal today rather than start again tomorrow with a different buyer in an uncertain market. A finely-judged (if not entirely ethical) “take-it-or-leave it” moment.

If the divorce payment (actually a complete misnomer for the settling of old and unavoidable debts) were truly a lump sum, the UK could still try one quick slice at that before doing the deal. Of course it isn’t; it’s an agreed mechanism (relatively opaque out of political necessity to make it impossible to calculate an accurate figure now) and the EU will have no tinkering with that.

Likewise the Irish backstop is a finely-tuned, hard-negotiated mechanism designed to protect the interests of the EU, Ireland and the UK (i.e. the UK’s vital interests as a party to the Good Friday Agreements). The form of the backstop is the one requested by the UK government that allows it to say that Northern Ireland remains at all times within the customs territory of the UK. Renegotiating that now, particularly to insert an unilateral rip cord the UK could pull to depart, would be like taking the warranties out of an agreed final form commercial agreement at the last minute. It would simply lead to deal-break.

Those cabinet ministers who think they can plot over the next week and force a wholesale renegotiation betray their lack of understanding of how negotiation works in the endgame.

Yes, the deal’s a stinker. But that’s because Brexit is a stinker and would be so whoever had negotiated it, because the UK’s flawed assumption was that the EU would be willing to damage itself in order to accommodate us as we walk through the exit door. It took an age for the various negotiating ministers — Brexiters to the last man and woman — to get where they got. Renegotiation is not an option now.

Back in the political world, where these ministers presumably do have expertise, the deal looks likely to go down in flames in the Commons. Then we take our chances that common sense prevails.

Just as the shareholders of a public company can reject a value-destroying major transaction proposed by the directors, the public needs to be allowed to scrutinise these terms, vote no to the deal and stay as we are: remain.

Daniel Poser is an Executive Committee member of Conservatives for a People’s Vote. This article has also been published on medium.com.

Letter to Jo Johnson

Dear Jo,

I’m writing on behalf of Conservatives For A People’s Vote, the only group of Tory members and voters dedicated to campaigning for a People’s Vote.

We are deeply grateful to you for putting your country before your career. You have our unequivocal support.

The facts you set out and the sentiments you express in your resignation letter are absolutely spot-on. The party has driven itself into a cul-de-sac, just as it did over the Corn Laws, appeasement and the poll tax. Now, just as then, it is the MPs who speak for Britain who will ultimately triumph.

The Brexit we’re ending up with is a disaster for the country and betrays the pro-business, internationalist, rule-of-law, pro-Union foundations which have underpinned Conservative philosophy for centuries.

It is our duty to restore the party to the outward-looking, moderate and positive force which led us to victory under Churchill, Thatcher and Major.

We invite you to join us and work with us in our activities with members of the voluntary party and Tory voters. Our numbers are growing daily and we are right behind you.

Simon Allison
Conservatives for a People’s Vote

Conservative MPs Must Find their Political Conscience

Dr Stewart Tolley

Conservative MPs should follow the examples of Burke and Mill and not allow party loyalty or the wishes of the electorate stop them exercising their judgement in the national interest.

One of the defining features of British representative democracy is that members are directly elected to represent the interests of their constituents and the nation. This sets it apart from continental systems of democracy, which tend to use party lists to select MPs, and has allowed British MPs a far greater independence of thought and freedom of action, letting them exercise their own judgement rather than slavishly follow a party line. It is also a key feature of traditional conservatism which is most closely associated with the philosophy of Edmund Burke.

Edmund Burke is a celebrated figure in the history of Conservative thought. It is therefore rather ironic that very few current Conservative MP’s seem to follow his views on national interest and party loyalty.

Burke was extremely critical of unquestioned party loyalty; something he believed constrained individual judgement. This was especially true when he believed an MP was forced to sacrifice their principles and put the interest of nation below that of the party or their constituents.

As he said in 1779 ‘all acting in corps tends to reduce the consideration of an individual in who is of any distinguished value’.

Burke was the very antithesis of a party drone. He went against his own party grouping in 1790 when he (accurately as it turned out) warned of the dangers posed by the French Revolution. It is interesting that MPs who warn about the dangers of Brexit are similarly maligned.

Burke was also not afraid to vote and speak out against the wishes of his own constituents, on contentious topics such as Capital Punishment, Catholic Emancipation and Free Trade. The last of these in particular
angered his constituents in Bristol to the extent they voted him out in 1780. This was not before Burke had written that this point of principle on Free Trade was so important that he ‘dared to resist the desires of his constituents’.

The Tyranny of Majoritarianism

These debates were going on at the same time as radicals such as Rousseau were writing that a ‘general will’ existed which meant all governments were obliged to follow the tyranny of the majority, no matter how irrational the beliefs of that majority may be.

In our own times, this has now morphed into the ‘will of the people’ which means MPs now feel obligated to ignore their own better judgment for the sake of the government’s interpretation of what 52% of the electorate said in a national plebiscite.

Some ultra-right wing Tories supported an enlargement of the franchise in the Great Reform Act of 1832 precisely because they knew that the ‘general will’ would at that time not have accepted progressive causes like Catholic Emancipation.

In a curious echo of the past, modern populists seem to be embracing increased democratisation precisely because it often produces reactionary responses.

Later writers like J. S. Mill saw this attitude as a form of ‘social tyranny’ where individual critical judgement was sacrificed. Mill as an MP always voted with his conscience, championing causes that were ahead of his time, but few in his party or constituency would support. Most notably in 1866 he attempted to insert an amendment into the Second Reform Act that would have enfranchised all women. It will probably come as no surprise that this was defeated. It took a war to give women the
vote in the UK and not fully until 1928.

Brexiters and populists love Switzerland because of its direct democracy, but it is precisely because of this system that it took until 1971 for women to get the same rights as in the UK. This again shows that MP defying the electorate is often a necessary condition for the national interest.

In Mill’s time governments were routinely defeated, normally 10-15 times a year. Voting along party lines mattered little; in 1850 it was as infrequent as 37% for Liberals and 45% for Conservatives. However by 1903 it was 88% and 83% respectively.

Entrenched Party Loyalty as a New Norm

Entrenched loyalty has now become the established norm. Much of it has to do with a more sophisticated operation of party whips. These
can often be coercive and arbitrary and often it is a result of a leader’s own hobby horse or preference.

Ian Duncan Smith should have allowed a free vote on allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt but decided to impose a three line whip in 2002. Big figures like Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo rightly led a rebellion against this decision. Famously John Bercow sacrificed a high profile position in the shadow cabinet.

When a government or party impose an irrational diktat on their MPs or when an MP feels that the direction their party and country is heading in is wrong, it is only right that they speak out and vote according to their conscience. It is easy to forget that the largest rebellion since the Corn Laws was over the invasion of Iraq, when 137 Labour and 16 Conservatives MPs defied their whips to vote against what they rightly saw as a bad policy. Many MPs have already done the same over Brexit and
they should be roundly praised for having done so.

Of course the great issue for our times, Brexit, is not the Iraq War or the French Revolution. However, it is just as contentious and despite its vocal supporters there is no clear popular majority for a specific type of Brexit. This means that it is imperative for MPs not to follow a nebulous and ill
defined ‘general will’ but to vote with their conscience rather than their party or constituents. In an ideal world, parliament would allow a free vote to reverse a policy that is clearly not in the national interest. However, populist politics got us into this mess so it is now expedient that we harness it one last time to get out of it.

Only another referendum will be perceived to have the legitimacy to
overturn the previous decision. Hopefully MPs will speak out in greater numbers to back a people’s vote, especially as like the Iraq War, there is beginning to be a strong belief that the public have been similarly hoodwinked. Boris’ bus and Fox’s easy promises is the dodgy dossier of the current parliament, MPs must take the courageous decision to not allow a similar act of folly again.

Dr Stewart Tolley is the Chief Historian of “The Past  – Bringing World History Alive”, as well as Secretary of the Northamptonshire Branch of the European Movement and the Academic Officer of the Young Conservative Group for Europe.