Could we be witnessing the death of the Conservative Party?

29th April, 2014 8:28 am

With all the hype about UKIP people seem to be missing the real – though linked – story in the evolution of the British party system – the continuing and now accelerating existential crisis facing the Tory Party.

miserable cameron

The Tories have historically been the dominant political party in British politics, bouncing back for long periods in government after short Labour interludes, and pragmatists adept at adjusting their political approach to match the mood of the electorate, as in the post-war period when they accepted the NHS and Welfare State.

Margaret Thatcher’s more ideological approach created a new coalition for them, including temporarily some blue collar ex-Labour voters attracted by right-to-buy and mass share ownership in privatised companies. This won them four general elections but ultimately sowed the seeds of a catastrophic decline because Thatcher’s evisceration of the UK’s manufacturing industry and the damage this did to communities relying on industry for their prosperity meant there are swathes of the North of England, Scotland and Wales that are now no-go areas for the Tories. Add to this regional dilemma a rising Lib Dem tide in the South West and extremely rapid demographic change which is making London a far more Labour-inclined city with a booming population, and the Tories don’t have many regions left where they are in play.

It is now 22 years since the Tories last won a sliver of a parliamentary majority in the 1992 election. They went on to suffer three crushing defeats at Tony Blair’s hands. Even presented with the open goal in 2010 of a very unpopular Labour government and PM and an economic crisis, they ended up 20 seats short of a majority, on just 36% of the vote.

There doesn’t seem to be any sign that they can form a majority government in 2015. The best they can play for is another hung parliament. This is because the Tory vote is distributed in a way that does not help them win the First Past the Post elections they rather stupidly campaigned to defend in the 2011 referendum. They stack up votes with high turnouts and big majorities in seats they will always win and which are not the General Election battleground. Mike Smithson at has suggested that Labour might win a majority even if the Tories get more votes nationally, and that the Tory position might be even worse because of the Lib Dems’ ability to defend their southern LD vs Con marginals with popular incumbent MPs and tactical voting even while their national vote is in tatters.

Tory Party membership has collapsed even faster than the general rate of decline of membership of political parties, down to 134,000 from 253,000 when David Cameron was elected leader in 2005.

Those members that remain are increasingly elderly. 61% are over 60 and the average age keeps increasing as few young people are recruited. Many of the keenest activists have defected to UKIP where they can find an uncompromising diet of political red meat away from the compromises of the Coalition.

This decline in their activist base is important because in close-run elections like 2010 and most likely 2015 ability to mobilise volunteer activists in key marginals could decide the outcome of the election.

Part of the reason for the decline in Tory fortunes is that they face unprecedented ideological competition from UKIP on their right. UKIP offers something of a crude version of the political recipe that made Mrs Thatcher popular with the Tory base. The Tories are thus faced with a huge dilemma. They cannot outbid UKIP’s populism, particularly on Europe and migration, without moving into territory which would make them unelectable with many swing voters. The compromises of being in coalition with the Lib Dems seem to have involved keeping all their unpopular economic and public services policies but being unable to give 2010 Tory voters what they want on the EU or the linked issue of immigration. The messaging that sustained their base in elections through to 2005 has been completely stolen from them.

Cameron talked about modernisation as a solution to the Tories’ woes in 2005 and thereby alienated their activist and voter base with a focus on liberalising the Tory image on issues like gay marriage that are anathema to those people. But then he didn’t drive forward any comprehensive wider reform of the Tory structure or policy platform sufficient to either bring in new groups of supporters as Blair did with New Labour, or to reduce the power of the party right over candidate selection.

He’s neither an election winner nor someone who has delivered popular policies for either his base or swing voters. He therefore faces a voter base and activist base and parliamentary party very few of whom feel any personal or ideological loyalty towards him. Most of them are on a spectrum somewhere between indifference towards his fate and absolute contempt.

The European elections on 22nd May are naturally the best battlefield for UKIP just as they were for the Tories when they monopolised the Eurosceptic franchise. The people who bother to vote will disproportionately be those who are motivated by anger about the EU. Other than blind tribal loyalty why would anyone who could vote Tory not vote UKIP instead?

If we have a similar result for the Euro elections as YouGov suggested on Sunday – just 19% polled as going to vote Conservative – it will be a disaster for the Tories, their worst vote in a national election ever.

Even if they recover it looks unlikely they will finish above third.

At this point the right of the Tory party will either start a new round of defections to UKIP or move to depose Cameron as party leader.

As Labour knows from our time in government, even botched coup attempts can be really damaging and destabilising this close to a General Election.

And who can be fielded against Cameron? Boris Johnson would certainly revitalise the Tories but he is not an MP yet so he can only run after a catastrophic General Election defeat, not in an effort to avert one. Would Osborne represent the kind of change Tory MPs and activists crave or which voters would need to be convinced of?

One outcome might be enough plotting and manoeuvring to really weaken Cameron, but leaving him in office to limp on wounded to the General Election.

This won’t necessarily be good news for Labour. The beneficiaries are as likely to be the rightwing populists of UKIP as us. The erosion of the Tory vote by a force to their right isn’t good news for anyone that wants a progressive future for Britain.

But as political theatre we could be about to see something really dramatic and historic happening – the meltdown of one of our major political parties. I would recommend buying some popcorn.

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  • Andy Black

    and if UKIP do win the Euro elections, Alex Salmond will go into overdrive and scare the Scots about the UK being out of Europe and may drive the yes vote to victory. Then you may have the collapse of both the Labour and the Conservative Party and a total realignment of English politics.

  • JoeDM

    By electing another weak, wet, pro-EU leader the Conservative Party itself brought about its current problems.

    • Duncan Hall

      Because they were riding high with all those Eurosceptics after Major…
      Not sure I buy that. I think Cameron is as much of a Thatcherite as any of them.

      • Luke Akehurst

        Correct. The real Wets and pro-Europeans from the Tory Reform Group were marginalised by Cameron. He was a SPAD for Thatcherite ministers.

  • Thickhead

    “Death of the Conservative Party?”…I think not. They will have to move politically to the right, the ground currently occupied by Farage, Fox, and Katie Hopkins, almost verging on the neo-Nazi if you like. Labour have moved into the area occupied by the traditional Tories and LibDems. The political vacancies now lie in the old Labour strongholds of the unions and their members. This is where I believe the next big scourge of the right have to come from. The New Labour smells more like a MacMillan Tory Party of the 50s and 60’s, totally unsuited to many of their current crop of MPs who struggle to follow or justify party lines on Welfare, Privatisation, NHS and links with The City.

    • Chilbaldi

      The number of trade union members declines daily. The number of working class jobs decreases, the number of ‘middle class’ jobs increases. Is the next scourge of the right going to come from an ever depleting base?

      • markmyword49

        I don’t agree about the number of “middle class” jobs. What I see is a hollowing out of the various employment markets. We, in the post industrial states are seeing the birth of a 10:90 split where only 10% of jobs are well paid and relatively secure whilst the rest are close to or below a living wage with minimum job security.
        Fringe parties come and go and will continue to do so but there will always be broad church parties of the left-centre and right-centre scrapping for the majority of votes.

    • gunnerbear

      What ever else UKIP is, it isn’t neo-Nazi by any means – that just makes your argument sound ridiculous.

      I for one want the UK to have total and utter control over it’s own borders so that HMG can decide who gets to stay…..are you saying that is a neo-Nazi policy? If so, I’d better tell some of my friends who are Red Mobbers and are considering voting UKIP after the Red Mob threw open the doors of the UK to the world in an attempt to import voters who would soak on welfare and thus vote Red…

      …regardless of the impact such a policy had on public services and jobs.

  • ToffeeCrisp

    And how many young people are active in Labour branch and constituency parties these days? The Tories may be further down the same road, but Labour are following them step by inevitable step.
    Feel triumphant if you like, but I think the writing is also on the wall for Labour.

    • Luke Akehurst

      I can only speak for the CLP which I just left, Hackney N, as I was membership secretary there. We had over 220 party members aged under 30 in just one constituency, not one with a university in it to bump up the figures. A further 200 members were aged 30-40. My anecdotal experience has been a flood of new younger activists joining in 2010 during and after the GE, when we gained 400 new members, many of whom are now running the local party and standing as councillors.

      • RogerMcC

        In 2010 – which was the last time any of us not on the NEC saw membership data for CLPs – Hackney North was the 8th largest CLP in the country.

        In contrast I was membership sec to one of those 267 CLPs which being mostly rural or semi-rural and Tory/Lib Dem safe seats are neither Labour-held nor on our 106 target seat list.

        And I did calculate the average age of members here for whom we have dates of birth and got IIRC 60.

        At 54 I am one of our youngest active members and we very rarely have anyone under 40 turn up to a meeting.

        Having attended meetings and social events at other similarly situated CLPs I really don’t think we’re atypical – and there are certainly many, many more of us forgotten and largely moribund CLPs than there are flourishing ones like Hackney.

        • gunnerbear

          Which is true of all the major parties – I suspect a lot of that has to do with the Party HQs being utterly determined to centralise as much power as they can in an effort to get the ‘right’ candidates into place.

          Why would a young person even be interested in that? No way that their voice is going to change policy – they might as well campaign on single issues that they’d want any version of to address.

          • RogerMcC

            No – political parties are only really interested in winnable seats.

            The problem is that for the big two 40% of seats are just not winnable and for the Lib Dems that will now be well over 90%.

            And while such parties used to be able to compensate by focus on local elections many councils now have either zero Labour or zero Tories and no real prospect of getting any.

            There are for instance 57 district councils with no Labour members at all and 21 more with just one solitary Labour councillor.

            Not that having a councillor makes very much difference in these days when councils have very little power and have often concentrated it in the hands of cabinets and mayors.

            So party members not in winnable seats really have no purpose or function in British politics.

          • gunnerbear

            Valid points but I was also thinking more about how the parties themselves behave. As to local elections – really what is the point of local councils given the huge range of mandated activities they have to undertake and their lack of ‘local freedom’.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            Makes a big difference. In my area the Tories are proposing to make cut Council tax benefit by 20% to all those who currently receive CTB. That’s will have a big impact on anyone on benefits. It does make a difference – we need to keep council’s Labour.

          • RogerMcC

            I was specifically talking about CLPs in areas like minewhere we have no or very few councillors – so for us the only difference having one would make is that they would be able to register their completely impotent dissent.

          • gunnerbear

            “In my area the Tories are proposing to make cut Council tax benefit by 20% to all those who currently receive CTB.”

            So which bit of the budget would you chop instead – remember LB said “there’s no money left” – as you clearly prefer to prop up traditional Red Mob client groups just as the Blue Mob never dare to touch pensioner benefits.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            Well – I’d just put up the Council Tax Rate – simples.

          • gunnerbear

            So you want to hammer the workers then.

            Wow….that would be ‘popular’. Trying selling that message on the doorstep, “I want to put up your Council Tax rate to pay for the CT benefits of those out on welfare….you know the ones that already get up to £26K of taxpayers cash……”

          • PoundInYourPocket

            I do knock on doors and many of them agree with you, in that where cuts need to be made it’s the poorest that should pay. But, on principle “from each according to his needs to each according to his ability. There’s a Daily Mail fueled mantra that the poorest in society should pay to keep the more affluent in comfort. That’s inhumane madness and about as right wing as you can get. So yes, increase Council Tax by at least 50% and get some decent local services. If you can’t afford it, cancel the Sky subscription.

          • gunnerbear

            So you’re happy to lower my standard of living by taking my cash from me to waste on things like diversity officers. outreach workers, translation services, 5-a-day co-ordinators, press officers, climate change officers, councillors inflated allowances and their attempts to get a pension, vast sums for Council Chief Exec’s and senior staff and the like…..

            …..and then also give even more to some of the unemployed who have decided to avoid work as a lifestyle choice. There are ‘undeserving poor’…..I suspect you know that too…the type of people who although ‘not working’ seem to do very well out of the system.

            I thought you be trying to cut the bills of the hard pressed worker, not drive them up…..and if you think my views are harsh you should hear what some in the WMC have to say about the ‘welfare state’ and crime.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            I know how exteme some views are in the local WMC but just because your “working-class” it doesn;t mean you’re a socailist or a humanist. Plenty of “working-class” people would quite happily step-over the beggars on the way to their union protected job on the railways. What I’m taliking about is more fundamental and it starts with the rights that people are born with. That’s the right to a decent life without persection by the state. So – yes , benefits should be unconditional, otherwise you allow state persecution as exemplified by IDS and the Tories. Some people will chose not to work as it doesn’t suit them. That would be a “life-style” choice. Not an easy one, as benefits are low, hence not many would chose it. But in an age where there will always be structural unemployment it actually helps if some decide to opt out of the limited labour market. Their opting-out provides the space for you you to opt-in. I see no reason to persecute people who are content to live on a low level of benefits. Why make their lives miserable ? Yes you will be paying for it. But you pay for all sorts of other things as well out of your taxes. It’s what makes society worth living in. As for your list of Council zombie jobs, well done for compiling the list. I agree there are excesses and these always end up in the press. (“Turkish woman demands translator for anti-smoking leaflet” etc). But you won’t find many of these in a well run council in which local people sit on scrutiny commitees..

          • gunnerbear

            “But you won’t find many of these in a well run council in which local people sit on scrutiny commitees..”

            Sorry…no sale on that one….you only have to scan the Press to find such non-jobs on a regular basis in just about every local authority.

            Interesting you call it persecution – I call it trying to make the system as fair as possible and the ‘something for nothing’ culture. If people chose not to work – fair enough – but then why should taxpayers cash be wasted on them?

            As to taxes, I don’t mind paying for the NHS, education, the Emergency Services, Defence and pensions, but I strongly object to myself and millions of other taxpayers funding wasters to the tune of £26K a year.

            Incidentally, I’m also a strong believer in Council housing fir those that can’t afford a home but that if a person can afford it, then they should be charged the going rate. No more Bob Crows on big wages living in council homes at below market rents.

            I also think it is time to examine what the NHS is for and how we should pay for it. Perhaps chop out non-essential treatment and maybe even introduce a proper co-pay system like Germany and France to get more cash into the NHS.

          • Mike Pellatt

            Respectfully…… it was the Labour government through their “reforms” that, errr, “encouraged” councils to concentrate power in the hands of mayors and cabinets. Gerry Stoker never wrote up an NLGN event I took part in that came up with the wrong answer when envisioning the 21st century council. I never, ever understood how an allegedly progressive party could be so wedded to cabinet governance and directly-elected mayors, in the name of “accountability” when they have the opposite effect.

          • RogerMcC

            Absolutely agree on New Labour’s role.

            But Labour has the same issue as the Tories in local govt.

            In the 1950s around 10% of the electorate belonged to a political party.

            And back then when Labour had a million individual members the minimum size of a CLP without which it could not even said a delegate to conference was 1,000 and many CLPs had a functioning branch in every single ward.

            So it was not that hard to find competent (or at least willing) councillors.

            Now the total membership of political parties is well below 1% of the electorate.

            And Labour now has around 190,000 members and an average CLP has 300 of whom not many more than 10% are likely to be active.

            But that same average CLP covers an area that elects around 20 district/borough and higher councillors and around 200 parish and town councillors.

            And the Tories are in even worse shape while the Lib Dems have virtually and deservedly disappeared in many constituencies.

            But local councillors continue to be elected in the same numbers as they were back when 10% of the electorate belonged to a political party and when councils had far greater power over local matters.

            So while the centralisation of power into the hands of elected mayors and cabinets is a retrograde step, it is one driven by a much deeper collapse of popular engagement with the whole political process.

          • dls198733

            It’s certainly sped up the process of decision making, but is less obscure for sure. Depends on your view… if you’re progressive, you ironically see this as a good thing… if you’re small ‘c’ conservative, this is less good in terms of developments…

          • Quiet_Sceptic

            I don’t think you can lay all the blame at the doors of the Party HQ.

            The local parties, some of the members and councillors bear some responsibility. In my experience there is too little effort made to make meetings and events genuinely interesting, something that a normal member of the public would want to attend.

            I think they fall into a trap – membership falls, the only ones attending tend to be councillors or those deeply immersed in local politics or the party, the discussion comes to centre on deeply arcane issues and becomes cliquey, so when new people do turn up the meetings are open or inclusive and they don’t come back.

            Plus the format of meetings is nothing short of appalling, they make work meetings look positively carefree and relaxed, and I get paid to attend work meetings, attending Labour meetings is something people do in their free time for personal interest.

          • dls198733

            Gunnerbear your analysis is quite right. The centralisation of power and influence to get the ‘right’ candidates is unfortunately very frustrating for younger potential – though the cigarettes have been banned, I can’t help but feel the same culture lies within in many cases. It’s a club… and though in the literal sense this is fine, the sub-culture is more of a problem.

      • Ben Cobley

        Hackney is a very particular area in London – fashionable, trendy and relatively cheap – it’s been a magnet for motivated liberal-minded professionals for many years. I’m no expert on these things but I’m guessing its demographic profile is completely different to almost every other constituency in the country.

        • Luke Akehurst

          Hackney relatively cheap??? Not now it is isn’t. It has the 8th highest house prices of any local authority in the UK.

          • Ben Cobley

            Yes, sorry, I meant to add “until recently” – being colonized by trendy arty types + the Olympics and being in close to the centre has caused a rocketing of house prices.

      • PoundInYourPocket

        I’m over 50 and the youngest by a margin in my urban CLP.
        No sign of any youthful interest either. Although we have approached local colleges – no interest. Much more for the Greens.

        • Hamish Kennedy

          Perhaps if you changed your image, dropped the pipe and take the mac off you might strike more interest with the younger politicos. Sorry mate but it is no longer the sixty’s HW would strike a completely new look if he was with us today.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            I still don’t know how to light this pipe.

          • markmyword49

            I understood Harold didn’t either. I’m told he was a cigar man in private.

        • dls198733

          Just rejoined the CP and was very surprised at the lack of >50s.Student politics is starting to revive itself in apolitical colleges, but is geared to Green politics less because of principle, but more due to the culture within educational institutions (I am a teacher, so can comment!). Greens have appealing policies in some areas, however, but I don’t believe students are naturally socialist when you extrapolate their beliefs away from the environment they normally discuss them in.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            I presume you mean Communist party by CP. I could have guessed that as well by the fact that your one month late in joining the debate ! Interested to hear that there are younger people getting involved (<50 at least). I can see the attraction of a "modern" style of communist party, what has always put me off has been the archaic language and rigid dogma. I hope it's possible that a younger generation can see the appeal of communism over capitalism and will find a way of expressing it in a manner that suits the modern age. A bit less of the proletairiat dogma and a bit more Green-Communism perhaps? good luck.

      • Robert_Crosby

        Therein lies the problem, Luke. It saddens me – as someone who joined Labour in 1983 when I was 15 and have chosen to stick with it – that the Party is blighted more and more now by people who “can only speak from my own experience” or who take a very short-term (and often cynical) view. We are crying out for people who can look beyond the end of their own noses and take a wider view.
        ToffeeCrisp is right.. we have no reason whatsoever to be complacent, especially with the uninspiring leadership that Shadow Cabinet members and others are exhibiting. At least Blair waited until he won an election before he started antagonising many members and disillusionment set in!
        As for your prediction that the Tories may soon be extinct, I seem to remember that being said once before. It’s clichéd claptrap and you should know better.

        • Luke Akehurst

          I’m not sure I understand the point you are making. I’m being the opposite of cynical – I’m celebrating my own experience of the last 4 years which is of being part of a local party which has nearly doubled in size and is full of idealistic young activists.

          I quoted the figures I had access to for my own CLP but as an NEC member I was shown national stats that showed a similar boost in membership and activism since 2010 and particularly loads of young people joining the party.

          I’m sorry if you find the Shadow Cabinet uninspiring, I think we have a great team.

          I joined the Labour Party when I was 16 in the 1980s too so I am not coming from that disimilar a starting point.

          • Robert_Crosby

            Some of them are dreadful and most of the rest are pretty ordinary, Luke! True, I see all kinds of comments from high-profile “wannabes” who want to join in with them and pursue a career as a Labour Parliamentarian but that simply demonstrates how out-of-touch both they and many of the front bench are. I fancy that more Labour voters and members will agree with me than you. It must be very frustrating for those of our backbenchers who are putting the work in to try to get our message across.

          • RogerMcC

            Lets be precise here.

            Hackney N had by your account 400 new members join before, during or after the general election in 2010.

            At the time of the leadership election in 2010 it had 850 members who were balloted.

            Presumably some of those 850 were recent joiners and thus included in your 400 new members.

            And presumably some of those 400 new members hadn’t joined in time to be included in the 850 balloted – I’d guess based on the national figs for Dec 2009, Sept 2010 (the ballots total) and Dec 2010 that this number would probably be around 100.

            So presumably you had approx 550 members at end of 2009, around 300 had joined in time to get ballots by Sept 2010 and another 100 or so were added by Dec 2010 so you ended up with 950 members?

            400/550 = a 73% rise.

            So you seem to be talking about Hackney N adding something like 75% to its membership over 2010 – which is a real tribute to you and your comrades truly Stakhanovite efforts there.

            If however the national stats really showed a ‘similar’ boost in membership to what you probably had in Hackney we would have jumped 73% from the 156,000 we had in Dec 2009 to around 270,000 by Dec 2010.

            But the actual increase in membership between Dec 2009 and Dec 2010 was from 156,000 to 193,000 – a 23% increase.

            And of course we’ve not increased membership at all since.

            So sorry but 73% (or whatever the precise Hackney N number is) and 23% are not similar numbers – one is three times bigger than the other.

            I’d also like to know the basis of your statement ‘loads of young of people joining the party’ given that if the NEC collects dates of birth from new members it certainly doesn’t pass them on to us Membership Secretaries.

            The fact is that Labour’s NEC is hugely skewed towards London CLPs and those that either have Labour MPs or are target seats (none of the winning CLP section candidates and only one of the non-winning candidates came from a seat which was not either held by Labour or a target seat in 2012) and you really do seem to think that relatively flourishing urban parties like Hackney or Oxford are representative of CLPs in general.

            And I really wish you were but I am afraid you are not.

          • Luke Akehurst

            Hi Roger. your figures are almost spot on. We had 566 members in the CLP at the start of 2010, rising to a peak of 958 in July 2011. We are now on 918 but has been going back up since Jan this year.

            The main credit for this is not our own efforts but the demographics of the seat which mean it has a lot of the kind of residents who are interested in joining a political party.

            Dates of birth are in the spreadsheet that membership secretaries can download from MemberCentre. The national demographics of the membership are presented every year to the NEC at their Away Day.

            Having been a parliamentary candidate in Aldershot and Castle Point (both under 200 members) and joining in Canterbury I am well aware of the challenges of campaigning in non-urban areas with a small membership and activist base. I also visited many CLPs like this when I was on the NEC – places like the New Forest where we have no councillors. While I was on the NEC I helped ensure the Refounding Labour process included a huge redistribution of membership income from large urban CLPs to small rural ones.

          • RogerMcC

            a) So you accept my point that Hackney has very different demographics to the majority of Labour seats and is very much an outlier rather than as you initially seemed to claim typical?

            I do however think your personal efforts must have made a big difference though as you did virtually double your membership in a year when other CLPs collectively added less than a quarter to theirs and the demographics alone can’t explain that.

            b) I am looking at a CLP membership spreadsheet right now and it only has dates of birth for some members – and those it does have DOBs for average age 61 with only 20% being under 30 (in fact we have more 85+ year-olds here than <30 year-olds).

            And to my knowledge no one has ever released an age breakdown of Labour members – but if we are going to seriously confront the problem maybe we should.

            c) I well recollect the funding changes from Refounding Labour which had the net effect of greatly reducing our annual income – although we did get contact creator which we would never have paid for anyway as it is entirely useless to a CLP that gets 10% of the vote in Westminster elections and has never had a district or county councillor elected in its entire history.

            The bottom line is that as you acknowledge there is a huge gulf between a CLP like Hackney and those in the endless swathes of blue (and toxic patches of orange) that covers most of Southern England outside of London – and you really can't generalise based on either Hackney or a CLP like mine.

      • Quiet_Sceptic

        You can’t assume the same applies across the country.

        The picture in my constituency is very different, I think total membership is around 250 and I think you’d struggle to count 10 active members under 30.

  • EricBC

    ”They stack up votes with high turnouts and big majorities in seats they will always win and which are not the General Election battleground”.

    Actually that is WHY they are not in the General Election battleground.

  • RogerMcC


    Look at UKIP’s performance in the 2009 Euro elections and the polls preceding it – (admittedly not quite as strong as now but remember they had to actively compete with the BNP for the racist moron vote back then).

    Then look at May 2010 when they got just 2.9% and 458 out of 558 candidates lost their deposits – costing them £229,000.

    Also look at the 100 seats where they kept that deposit by getting 5%+ of the vote – overwhelmingly these are safe Tory seats (the average Tory share in those seats being 44% compared to 22% Lab and 25% LD) where antediluvian bigots could safely express their inner-Farage without actually endangering the Tory hold on that seat.

    While if you look at 2010 marginals UKIP’s vote tends to drop if not disappear – compare for instance the marginal three Brighton and Hove seats to the safe Tory inland Sussex seats to the North where UKIP polled much more strongly.

    Although I suspect that UKIP will get nearer 5% nationally in 2015 I’d be willing to bet that much the same will happen again and will be decisive in only a handful of seats – if any.

    • <>

      So is everyone who is concerned about immigration racist morons then for hoping or thinking UKIP might have some solutions?. It’s really not on to diss ppl for having views that are not the same as yours

  • Steve Stubbs

    And about time too.

  • markmyword49

    Witnessing the death of the Conservative Party? Hardly they’ve survived for a good few years by being flexible. The rise of a party like the SDP didn’t kill off Labour. These are “broad church” organisations. They have to be given the UKs voting system for local and general elections.
    Fringe parties like the BNP, UKIP and the SDP explode out of nowhere garnering the votes of the disaffected, usually during times of economic and social upheaval only to subside when conditions improve. The electorate will more than likely give the major parties a sharp reminder that there is more to life than the shenanigans in the Westminster village at the EU poll but come 2015 common sense will have them returning to voting for parties that have a realistic chance of government.

    • reformist lickspittle

      But that’s the thing.

      They are an ideological party now – Thatcher ended much of that “flexibility”.

      • RogerMcC

        I think this misses the point.

        There are Tories who are swivel-eyed Ayn Rand-quoting loons but far fewer than you’d expect.

        To the true ruling class power and profit are all and ideas mean nothing unless they can be commodified – and if they can be secured through centrist compromise that is what they will do.

        But a global recession offers unmissable opportunities to not just defend and cautiously accumulate one’s wealth but to rape and pillage whole societies.

        And that is what they are doing – but in the name of maximising shareholder value rather than of liberty.

  • Steve Stubbs

    Quote “Mike Smithson at has suggested that Labour might
    win a majority even if the Tories get more votes nationally,…” unquote

    Appreciating I do not have the clout of the man, whose blog I read daily, I would like to modestly point out I forecast this on this website months ago. I hope reading this column is where he got that from! I still hold this view.

    Despite the hysterical attacks on UKIP both in the press and in the comments on this site for the public comments of a couple of their members when speaking in a personal capacity; (something that can be shown clearly that applies to all the other political parties as well), I have no doubt that the majority of tory defectors to UKIP for the euro elections (the give Cameron a bloody nose brigade) will return to tory homeland for the general election as they know in their heart of hearts that voting UKIP then will allow a Milliband pro-EU government in power. Turkeys do not generally vote for Christmas.

  • Ben Cobley

    The Conservative Party isn’t really conservative any more – they don’t believe in conserving the status quo. They have a quasi-utopian ideology of free markets that superficially appeals to their base by favouring those with wealth and assets, but has also undermined the conservative bedrocks of community and continuity. Now a lot of their former core support is feeling detached and alienated – not that much different from Labour.

    • RogerMcC

      Evelyn Waugh many years ago stated that the problem with the Conservative Party is that it has never turned the clock back a single minute.

      If only that were still the case…..

    • TrottieTrue

      Yes, I agree with you – I’m really starting to be convinced that the NuTory ideology ISN’T one of conserving institutions, but actually chucking them away when they’re deemed “unprofitable”, or no longer working.

  • FMcGonigal

    “the Tory vote is distributed in a way that does not help them win the First Past the Post elections”. True but FPTP generally works in the Tories’ favour they are more popular. It could be their salvation in seats where Lib Dems are their main opponents.

  • swatnan

    No, reports of their demise are exagerated. Its wishful thinking; a pipedream.

  • RogerMcC


    A 25% UKIP vote in a 30% turnout election will signify nothing.

    if anything by reducing however temporarily Tory support it will actually weaken the Scottish Yes campaign – whose only real hope now would be a series of polls suggesting that the Tories will inevitably win the next general election.

    However if Scots think that Labour has a good chance (which I am all too far from sure it really has….) of winning next year then they don’t have to take the nuclear option of blowing up the UK to escape from the Tories.

    • Chilbaldi

      But what about the UKIP factor? A lot of nationalists highlight UKIP’s popularity in England and comparitive non-existence in Scotland as a reason to vote for independence.

      • RogerMcC

        A ‘lot of nationalists’ is Sid and Doris MacBonkers….

        The SNP has in total under 25,000 members (which is almost certainly more than you’d get if you totalled Scottish CLP membership) or 0.6% of the Scottish electorate and the other pro-independence parties in Scotland would number hundreds rather than thousands – so we are not talking a mass popular movement here.

        I follow the referendum polls quite closely (John Curtice at Strathclyde University has an excellent website summarising every one published) and have seen nothing to suggest that significant numbers of actual Scottish voters are fanatic Europhiles terrified that the UK will leave the EU taking poor Scotland with it.

        And of course given that UKIP has zero support (0.7%) in Scotland and the Tories not much more, one way you can help push the UK out of the EU is to take away Scottish voters through independence.

        Which given that the whole SNP argument for independence is that nothing has to change that much because both Scotland and Rump UK would still be in the EU and have free movement, trade etc is a logical problem in itself.

        But take Scotland out of the UK and Rump-UK lurches even further to the right and quite probably out of the EU and all of the nightmares Scots have about not being able to cross the border without a passport come true.

        • gunnerbear

          “one way you can help push the UK out of the EU is to take away Scottish voters through independence….”

          And all those Labour seats too…..most excellent….no more Sots MPs trying to grab an even bigger share of the pie for their country whilst also voting on matters that have nothing to do with them.

          • RogerMcC

            This is called Labourlist.

            There are equivalent sites for Tories (conservativehome), for Lib Dems and I presume UKIP as well.

            Lefties don’t AFAICS troll those sites – but a whole bunch of you people infest the comments down here.

            Seriously what’s in it for you?

            You are entitled to your views and have countless places you can express and have them applauded by other right-wing bigots – so why waste your time here?

            Anyway my normal rule is to ignore trolls so consider yourself ignored from now on.

          • gunnerbear

            The point I was making wasn’t an attempt to be party political – rather that if Scotland does go independent, then the Labour Party are going to be seriously in the mire given the weighting of seats and votes.

            As to the current system, Scots MPs do get to vote in English matters and as Scottish representatives they continually call for a ‘better’ settlement when it comes to the Barnett Formula.
            Perhaps I was overly flippant in the way I made the point but I think it is a valid one.

            As to visiting the site, I find it interesting and at times informative.

            In terms of voting habits, I’m actually MOR and if the policies are right I’ll vote either way – I don’t have a blind tribal allegiance to one party or another.

            I’m currently leaning towards UKIP at the moment in the absence of an offer of a referendum and the fact that the Labour Party tried to import millions of would-be Labour voters into the country.

            Incidentally, I’ve been a TU member since I joined work, a TU shop-floor official and also a works wide branch chairman. I even seconded the branch motion to support the election of the chap who is now our General Secretary – if you doubt me I’d be delighted to pass on my details to the Moderators and they can have a look.

            I hardly think that makes me that right wing does it? More solidly working class.

            As to Conservative Home, there are some on there who find me a trifle ‘too left wing’.

            Anyway, apologies if I’ve offended you, however unwittingly.

          • RogerMcC

            Where do you get ‘tried to import millions of would be Labour voters into the country’?

            Unless they are Irish (which has been the case since 1922 and hardly anyone worries about) non-UK citizens cannot vote in general elections.

            And if they are EU citizens they have little motivation to naturalise themselves as British so they can vote.

            As for the actual numbers during the last 5 years of Labour govt all naturalisations averaged 169,000 a year – and have actually risen to 194,000 under the Tories and their Lib Dem Quislings.

            So if immigrants are would-be Labour voters why are we seeing the Tories giving more of them citizenship and voting rights than Labour did?

            And if you look at where immigrants actually live you’ll see they concentrate heavily in constituents which are safe Labour seats anyway – so adding another 100 possible Labour voters to a seat that has a 15,000 Labour majority would be pointless – while the middle class migrants who might move to more marginal seats in the suburbs are probably no more likely to vote Labour than any other middle class person.

            So whatever your background is you are hugely exaggerating the problem.

            Because even 194,000 new citizens originating from abroad a year is not a huge change in a country of 64 million – particularly given that half of successful naturalisations are either children or spouses of existing citizens.

            Fully integrating new citizens is always an issue – but one that Labour actually took far more seriously in government than the Tories seem to now – and one that we’ve actually been rather more successful at than many other countries anyway.

            And re Scotland the solution is what Victorian radicals called Home Rule All Round: give England a parliament of its own elected by proportional representation so it is not dominated by Tories and give it real powers and the UK might actually start working again.

            Drive Scotland out – which even if they lose the vote now would be the eventual result of another 5 or 10 years of Tory rule – and we do end up with perpetual Tory govt, the complete destruction of the NHS, welfare state, free education and everything even marginally tolerable for a non-rich person to live in (and whatever they say they will never actually leave the EU).

            Is that really what you want?

          • gunnerbear

            “And where do you get ‘tried to import millions of would be Labour voters into the country’?”

            Read what Andrew Neather had to say on the issue or Lord M. who said, “We sent out search parties…” The Senior Brass at the top of the Labour Tree did try to ‘rub the rights nose in it’, hoping to change the UK so quickly that the Right would never get power again…..I’d call that importing prospective Labour Voters wouldn’t you?

            “give England a parliament of its own elected by proportional representation so it is not dominated by Tories and give it real powers and the UK might actually start working again.”

            Pity Labour didn’t go for PR when they had the chance or is the loss of all those Scottish seats now making them feel uneasy…..and now presumably because it benefits the Red Mob, you think the English parliament should be voted in under PR….

            ….and you wonder why the average voter is cynical about the motives of the average politician or party.

            “…the complete destruction of the NHS…”

            You do know that when the Blue Mob was in power, real terms spending on the NHS went up year by year and just like when the Red Mob were in power it was never enough. Nurses and doctors always want more pay and that alone costs billions to start with.

            In any case, the NHS is a devolved matter so the state of the NHS in Wales & Scotland is up to the politicians elected there. They aren’t Blue Mobbers are they?

            “destruction (of the) welfare state…” Sorry, you’ve lost me. The Coalition govt. is only putting into place something Frank Field called for years ago: the ending of the something for nothing culture and even better a cap on overall household benefits….or do you think that £26K paid by other taxpayers isn’t enough? How much would you set the cap at?

            Incidentally, isn’t the spare room subsidy a Labour policy of some standing. They introduced it….but late to complain that the Coalition are finishing the job.

            “destruction (of) free education…” Have you got a link for that please?

            If you are talking about tuition fees why not be brave and say,

            “Right, we on the Left do think that Uni. is a good thing but as holders of the public purse we ain’t paying for courses in Art History but we will pay for medicine, we won’t pay for degrees in music but we will pay for engineering and so on….

            ….so those that want to go to Uni. and study something useful and productive can do so free of charge….

            ….and if you want to study something esoteric or arcane like German Literature….then you’ll have to pay for it or get sponsorship.”

            I hardly think that sounds too radical.

          • RogerMcC

            Why would mastering the language of a country which now dominates Europe and is a major trading partner of ours be arcane and esoteric?

            And you really are exhibiting classic troll behaviour – you call us childish names, assume that anything we say or do can only have the lowest motives, make entirely specious arguments where rogue MPs that were actually sacked from the last Labour govt for being bonkers are treated as fonts of Labour policy and quote an unsubstantiated attack by an embittered former Labour bag carrier (who in fact said nothing other than that early drafts of policy papers sometimes include silly statements that wiser heads quickly delete).

            And you completely ignore my point that actually most immigrants don’t become citizens and thus don’t vote and have yet to produce any evidence that those who are naturalised do vote Labour (for the good reason that as naturalised citizens are only a small percentage of the electorate so only the very largest polls would produce statistically sound data on how they vote).

          • gunnerbear

            Apologies – didn’t complete my point, “Medieval German Literature” (or Medieval English Literature for that matter).

            “…..assume that anything we say or do can only have the lowest motives……..”
            If you doubt that and can get hold of it, try and get a copy of the latest Private Eye No. 1364 and read page 8…..especially the bit in the box entitled, “100 years ago…..”
            Ohh, I don’t subscribe to the theory that any one party is more venal or corrupt than the other…..because they’re each the same. As to the bit about picking out past behaviour and using it to highlight ‘the Tories’, well, that’s exactly the same as saying a Labour activist saying that a Tory MP in their 30s is exactly the same as Mrs. T. and that the MP supports in full everything Mrs. T did….”
            Wiser heads? Hmm….those wiser heads that have been recently shouting, “sorry, sorry…sorry….we got immigration utterly wrong…we knew what we were doing and it has utterly backfired……”
            Err, the comments made included the phrase, “determined to rub the Rights nose in it….” Now what could that mean? Why would the Labour Party wish to import lots of low skilled, poor immigrants who would inevitably end up claiming benefits….
            ….and which way do benefits claimants vote in the main?

  • lionsafterslumber

    Do the Tories actually need an activist base when the Sun and the Daily mail are still putting out the right wing propaganda? They may well have a big tactical problem at the next election from UKIP, but then how can anyone stop Johnson at the election after that? There is always likely to be a party defending the interests of the rich and powerful. The question is whether a party defending the interests of the 90% can defeat them, and how often the 2 party system allows such an option rather than a choice between 2 parties both defending the rich and powerful.

    • Luke Akehurst

      Newspapers are dying in terms of circulation and influence. The Sun now has a circulation of 2.2m, down from 3.9m in 1997; the Mail now has a circulation of 1.8m, down from 2.3m in 1997.

      • RogerMcC

        But what newspapers there are are massively biased in favour of the Tories.

        Plus of course many readers just don’t buy these papers but still read them daily online (I’ve not bought a Guardian in nearly ten years but probably spend more time reading its articles on line than I did when I bought the hard copy) and are influenced by them.

        Their journalists also get to disseminate their views on broadcast media – how many appear on Any Questions, Newsnight etc?

        And the Tories have vast sums of money and can (and almost certainly will) hire direct marketing agencies to pay battalions of minimum wage zero-hour contract helots to stuff their leaflets through doors in marginal seats or just post them.

        Where they are already having problems is in finding people to fill all the council seats – I’ve personally had elderly Tory councillors bend my ear about how they are having to carry on standing into the 70s and 80s because there are no younger Tory members willing to give up a couple of hours per month and replace them.

        Which is I think another impetus towards the trend to centralising what power councils have left into the hands of cabinets – the quality of councillors in one party state councils like mine is clearly declining.

  • PoundInYourPocket

    Try Colin Crouch’s “Strange non-death of the Neo-Liberals”. The Tories are surging ahead and to the right and they’re not going to roll over any time soon. Look at how much destruction they’ve caused in 4 years whilst still managing to maintain a decent poll rating. Next it’s the massive Tory advertising onslaught that will hammer Labour’s miniscule budget. Complacent articles such as this concern me deeply.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Nihilistic pessimism like yours is even more concerning, though.

      Let me repeat – THEY HAVEN’T WON A MAJORITY FOR 22 YEARS.

      Even with big money *and* the media OVERWHELMINGLY on their side.

      • PoundInYourPocket

        I’m not being pessimistic – I just fear that the complacency of this article is like Kinnocks victory speech before the election he lost in 92.

        P.S. The “neo-liberals” have had a majority since 1979.

      • RogerMcC

        But as the last 4 years (and arguably the whole New Labour era when they didn’t even need to be in power for the neo-liberal agenda to advance inexorably) shows they don’t need a majority.

        And go back 100 years and in only 34 (1914-15, 1923-4, 1929-31, 1945-51, 1964-70, 1974-9, 1997-2010) have Tories not been in government.

        Indeed over the twentieth century Tories held power here for more years than the Communist Party did in Russia.

        Bevan’s vermin line could also have referred to their ineradicability from the body politic – they’ve been around since the reign of Charles II and have been declared dead on at least three occasions but they always worm their way back into power.

        • PoundInYourPocket

          “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my
          heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am
          concerned they are lower than vermin.”

          • RogerMcC

            Yep – that’s the one – every bit as true now as it was in 1950 or 1815 or 1685.

  • Hamish Kennedy

    I agree with with Luke win or come second the party vote will be such a dramatic improvement over the last EU Poll that we will have plenty to celebrate. For the T.P. it is a no win game. Ed comes top and he looks as the PM in waiting. If the Ukipers take pole position the warfare that will break out in Parliamentary and local party organisations will make the Tory Party will look like a suburb of Damascus. I will take a beer with my popcorn.

  • Suzanne Ennazus

    People thought the Conservatives were a dying party after they were last in
    power, but after a bit of propaganda in the Murdoch media such as Sky
    News and The Sun, here they are to destroy the country and people’s
    lives again. We need to do more to make sure others know the truth
    behind that media, as that’s all many follow.

  • Graemeyh

    “Are we witnessing the death of the conservative party”? I do so hope so. How wonderful.

  • robertcp

    The Tories seem incapable of winning a majority in a first past the post election. They have rejected changing the voting system, so their best option is probably to absorb right-wing Lib Dems.

    My view is that neither Labour nor the Tories are broad coalitions like they were in the 1950s and 1960s. A realignment on the right or left might occur in the next few years.

  • Plus, while Labour are fielding policies which are landing with the electorate, all the Tories seem to be able to do is rehash the same: ‘in the private sector we trust’ coupled with ‘austerity for the poor, tax-cuts for the rich’. Happily, while the 1% may have the wealth, in a democracy, the 99% have the power.

  • dls198733

    A rising tide of LibDems in the SW? Paid much attention to opinion polls and EU elections then? And, in reference to the point about young Conservatives… it’s true that associations are flooded with the older generation, but so are Labour associations, and to a lesser extent other parties. But, the Conservative Future (youth wing) is doing rather well and has some intelligent and talented people in the ranks. Predicting the election next year is a silly business at the moment… the electorate are being awfully fickle right now.


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