It was not just Labour members lending their votes to the Liberal Democrats in the European elections. ED SHACKLE is a Conservative member who voted for the anti-Brexit party as a warning to the leadership contenders.
The results of the EU elections have been taken as evidence for any number of narratives. But all sides can agree that clarity is king. My father and I decided to lend our votes in the EU elections, to different parties. We’re both lifelong Conservatives, but the Lib Dems got my vote, and the Brexit Party got his.
Brexit has clouded party politics to the point that clarity is in vogue – some in my party like my father, a lifelong Tory voter, have lent their vote to the Brexit Party. Some, like me, to the resurgent Lib Dems. It was the first time I’ve strayed from the arguments of economic competence and stable leadership to make a point.
Having made my vote known, many of my delighted Lib Dem friends have since asked if I would be making the switch permanently. Indeed, some of my closest Conservative friends are planning on leaving my party in the next few days and weeks.
But I won’t be joining them. In fact, I will be renewing my membership of the Conservative Party this summer. Theresa May’s wretched tenure will be pored over for years, but the starkest lessons from her premiership are already there for her successor. Whoever that is, they must stick to the compassionate conservatism that gave people hope in 2015. If they don’t, they will condemn both the party and the country to more of the chaos and uncertainty it has suffered since 2016.
There is no future in a Tory party championed by Boris Johnson: younger generations aren’t attracted by his out-of-touch, worn-out politics, which calls back to a crueller age of conservatism. Theresa May attempted to please both wings of a divided party. But when push came to shove, she ended up drifting to the right, trying to appease those who do not compromise. The compromise option has always been there for the government. A People’s Vote gives us the opportunity to decide if we still want to leave the EU, and if we do, the manner in which we leave.
Our ailing prime minister was always unable to look beyond the immediate danger posed by the likes of John Redwood and Bill Cash, who are willing to burn down the party and the country for the sake of ideological purity. It is their intransigence that has brought this country to its knees. We have always been a party of national interest; drifting in the direction of the Brexit hardliners, or worse still, Nigel Farage, would be a catastrophic error.
But for activists like me, tearing up our membership cards and leaving the party in protest against an ill-thought stance is not the answer. In fact, it misses the point entirely. By lending our votes to rival parties we have proved the extent of our frustrations. This message has rung loud and clear to the tune of the worst Conservative election result since 1832. Now if we are to force real change in the party we must not splinter off to other parties for good.
We have to do it tactically, and from within. Brexit is a time-sensitive issue. The next Conservative Party leader will be the most important political actor in these next few most crucial months. Whoever ends up with the unenviable task of leading this country through this crisis must be a one nation Conservative – someone who is prepared to compromise and put the best wishes of the country over those of the party.
My father will certainly have a different view on who the next prime minister should be, but at least we’ll both have a chance to be heard if we stay and try and force change from within. That is, if we’re not kicked out, of course.
– Ed Shackle is a member of Young Conservatives for a People’s Vote and works for Our Future, Our Choice.