The Tory Party always prided itself on being the natural party of government. It was known as the most ruthless, focused and successful political machine in he business. It had no truck with sentiment; it was all about winning elections and governing. No more.
The party – well, much of it – arrives in Manchester this weekend for its annual get together. It will no doubt be a far cry from the triumphant, joyous, almost hysterical mood to be found in Brighton last week at Labour’s gathering. It will instead have the feel of a wake – still reeling from the loss of the election that it called (well, it’s so-called leader called) when it assumed it would win with a thumping majority and cement another five years in power. Still licking its wounds. Still acting, and sounding like losers. Still punch drunk from the bloody nose the voters deservedly handed to it after its hopeless, clueless and pointless campaign that nearly led to a catastrophic defeat.
The silver lining – yes, there is one – is that despite the most risible election campaign ever fought, the Tories are still in power. They do still have their hands on the levers of power to make a difference in the country. They can still set and shape the agenda. In Theory. Of course the reality of the current political landscape is that Labour and Jeremy Corbyn are dominating and the last few weeks should have Tories rethinking their “let Theresa stay until Brexit is delivered” strategy. The way things are going, by the time that point is reached the next election will already be lost. It is looking lost already and I fear that every day that Mrs May remains as leader that inevitable debate gets larger and larger. The party needs to act. It needs to act in its own interest and that of the country.
It is time for the party to get its act together and sharpish otherwise Jeremy Corbyn will be living in No 10 and all of the work it has done since 1951 will go down the toilet. That is not hyperbole. Jeremy Corbyn with a parliamentary majority will radically, fundamentally and lastingly change the nature of the United Kingdom. He will transform this country – not in a good way. He will change Britain forever. As I write this, the lack of leadership, direction, strategy, narrative within the party and any clue as to how to get back on the front foot is handing the election and the future of the country to Mr Corbyn.
Isabel Hardman and Matthew Paris discussed the dilemma facing the party on the Today Programme this morning. Should they limp on for two years with Mrs May or should someone challenge her now. Neither prospect is ideal as they concluded. A leadership election will be ugly, divisive and potentially futile. Not having an election will be ugly, divisive and definitely futile. Mrs May is a hopeless politican and an electoral liability. Every day she remains in No 10, Jeremy Corbyn can more and more confidently measure up for new curtains and a new Westminster allotment.
The time to act has come. The time to paper over the cracks is over. This week in Manchester, the Tory Party, of which I have been a membership for well over half my life, needs to get moving; it needs to start the fightback. There is still time, but only just. This is time for someone – anyone please – to step out of the shadows and start to offer the party a positive vision for the future. To paraphrase Charles Weller; now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid for the party – and the country.