IF you play with fire, you get burned.
Play with fire as the Tories have been — by delaying and watering down Brexit until it feels like it won’t happen at all — and the party will become engulfed in a destructive firestorm.
This week, the Conservatives will get badly burned, but whether that turns into a full-on firestorm is down to them
Many of its MPs and ministers still do not understand what’s at stake.
But on Thursday, they will be given one last chance to understand how reckless they have been.
In the European elections, in which we elect British MEPs to attend a European Parliament we have voted to leave, the Conservatives are likely to win as few as one in ten votes.
Undeterred by the haemorrhage of support to The Brexit Party, Tory “modernisers” have issued a mini manifesto of demands they say the next party leader must accept.
Far from representing modernisation, however, their demands — under the banner One Nation Caucus — betray a nostalgic desire to bring back the past.
The Conservatives will get badly burned. Whether the flames turn into a full-on firestorm or not is down to themNick Timothy
They want to take Britain back to the Nineties, to Blairism, and to the politics and policies that ignored millions of working class voters.
In particular, they refuse to accept that Britain voted to leave the European Union in order to return lost sovereignty and restore Parliamentary democracy.
Instead, they insist, it was a protest vote about a thousand and one things, but not the European Union.
“This is the time to tackle the underlying grievances that drove the Brexit vote and address the major issues,” the declaration in The Guardian from the MPs reads, “like the environment”.
You read that right. People voted to leave the EU because they were angry about climate change.
Unsurprisingly, environmental policies feature prominently in the declaration. Battling climate change must “be given equal standing with counter-terrorism,” they say.
But unlike the fight against terrorism, they want Britain to fight climate change on its own.
Not content with having already unilaterally forced up domestic energy bills and industrial electricity prices, closing down factories and destroying good jobs, they want Britain to go further, by fully de-industrialising to save the planet.
But try telling the rest of the world to do the same. As firms such as British Steel go under, carbon emissions in Asia go on rising, while European countries including
Germany burn coal and keep their factories open.
The Tories want to take Britain back to the Nineties, to Blairism, and to the politics and policies that ignored millions of working class votersNick Timothy
The agenda goes on. There are commitments to human rights, international aid spending and our “global responsibilities” for security.
All in all, it amounts to an elitist, liberal agenda. There is little to say to ordinary families concerned about job security, the cost of living, crime, immigration,
housing or the quality of local services.
And of course, there is little to say about Brexit.
The authors say they want Britain to leave the EU in a way that unites Leavers and Remainers. But this is impossible. The referendum gave us a choice. We could leave or we could remain.
And leaving, as David Cameron, George Osborne, Peter Mandelson and the rest of them explained, meant leaving the EU’s single market, and its laws and institutions in full.
There is no “half and half” Brexit. Any attempts to keep Britain in the EU’s single market, or its customs union, or tied to European laws written in Brussels and overseen by the Court of Justice, will be seen by Brexit voters for what they are: Attempts to stop Britain truly leaving the European Union.
‘No other way’
As Thursday will prove, this approach is already a disaster for the Conservatives.
Seventy two per cent of Tory members, and 68 per cent of Tory voters, supported Leave in the referendum.
Huge numbers of them will stay at home in protest or back the Brexit Party.
They will show their MPs — if they are willing to listen — that the Conservatives only have a future as an electoral force if they deliver Brexit, and in a way that Leave voters recognise is a meaningful departure from the EU and its laws and institutions.
After decades of Tory Euroscepticism, the referendum, the promises to respect the result, triggering Article 50 and fighting an election promising to get Britain out of Europe, there can be no other way.
The authors say they want Britain to leave the EU in a way that unites Leavers and Remainers. But this is impossibleNick Timothy
The Tories cannot suddenly become the party of liberal, anti-Brexit voters living in London and university towns.
Inevitably, this means they will lose some people who once voted Conservative.
But Brexit gives them the chance to win new voters in Leave-supporting communities outside the south east of England.
To do that, they need to ignore the siren calls to occupy the so-called “centre ground”.
On the BBC, the centre is used to imply political moderation, and policies that attract the support of the public.
In reality, it is no such thing. The centre is nothing more than ideological liberalism: Right-wing economics and low public spending, left-wing cultural policies such as high immigration and soft prison sentencing, and above all a determination to water down or stop Brexit.
Polling tells us — not to mention conversations with normal people outside the Westminster bubble — that the public wants the very opposite of this agenda.
They want Britain to become more culturally conservative, by getting tough on crime, cutting immigration, and bringing powers home from Brussels, and they want to tack slightly to the left on the economy.
They want ministers to take on the crony capitalists who rip off consumers, protect workers from exploitation, stop wealth consolidating in the hands of a fortunate few and, after years of austerity, spend more money on our vital public services.
As the Tory leadership candidates fight one another to climb to the top of the greasy pole, they need to understand this lesson. More aid spending, higher energy bills, more immigration, softer sentencing, more austerity and foreign wars do not amount to political modernisation or moderation.
CommentALLY ROSS Graham Norton shouldn’t have spared Madge’s blushes as he lashed Eurovision acts CommentTHE SUN SAYS Hipster who threw MILKSHAKE achieved nothing but to recruit more Farage fans CommentTREVOR KAVANAGH Vote for Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party this week before BoJo zips into No10 CommentJEREMY CLARKSON Not just rich will quit Jez’s Britain — it will be anyone with belongings CommentTHE SUN ON SUNDAY Thursday’s Euro elections is the real People’s Vote for Remoaners
And neither does thwarting Brexit. This week, the Conservatives will get badly burned.
Whether the flames turn into a full-on firestorm or not is down to them. They need to listen to the people, and fast.
PA:Press Association The PM has promised to make a ‘big, bold offer’ to MPs in an effort to get her Brexit deal through Parliament
Getty Images – Getty Nigel Farage recently vowed to topple Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in a political revolution
PA:Press Association They want to take Britain back to the Nineties, to Blairism, and to the politics and policies that ignored millions of working class voters, writes Nick Timothy
Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay says No Deal preparations will have to be ramped up