15 July 2021, The Tablet

Is England drifting away from the Tories?


UK politics

Is England drifting away from the Tories?

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey welcomes new MP Sarah Green to the Commons after her by-election victory
Photo: Alamy/PA

 

The Conservative Party has a comfortable majority and appears well-established in previously solid Labour heartlands. Yet dissatisfaction and distaste for the leadership is growing

Something very strange is happening in Conservative politics in the course of this curious summer. There is a sense of political movement, of a shift somewhere, that things are somehow perceptibly changing; there is a fluctuation in the political weather. Is it deep underground or is it something in the wind? Scientists apparently find it difficult to substantiate the link between the strange behaviour of animals and a subsequent earthquake and yet the anecdotal evidence has been recorded since all the animals fled the city of Helike in ancient Greece before it disappeared on a winter’s night in 373 B.C.

The anecdotal evidence in this case comes partly from the two most recent parliamentary by-elections in England and, perhaps more tellingly, from what is going on just beneath the surface of our national consciousness in local government. And, of course, there is what might be characterised as the strange behaviour of Dominic Cummings, out of sight, but most definitely not unnoticed, nor unheard – particularly not by the Prime Minister.
Professor Sir John Curtice, whose all-knowing wisdom is such that I am developing a fantasy in which he could single-handedly stage a virtual by-election without actually bothering the voters, will be on to this in a flash. Correction: I’ve just checked him on Twitter and he is on to it already. The Conservatives are losing support from voters “who are no longer quite sure about the direction of the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson”, he observed. And that was weeks ago, after the Chesham and Amersham by-election when, out of the blue, so to speak, the Conservatives managed to lose an ultra-safe seat in the heart of the cushioned comforts of Buckinghamshire and the professor drew what seemed an obvious conclusion.

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