England is the last place on earth the Conservative Party has left to rule

The party is returning to its tribal homeland


Many have been taken by surprise with the ardour with which Theresa May and her party have embraced Brexit. Their determination is unsettling to committed remainers and to the naturally cautious, as well as to those in Ireland and Scotland dealt duff hands by England’s prospective departure.

Why is this happening? Is there a way back at all? Here is my take:

It’s hard to imagine now, but the Conservative Party (CP) once ruled the world. Or as much of the then world that was the British Empire, which was a lot. Yes, the parties holding office alternated between the Whigs and the Tories, but this was a ruling class with the aristocracy dominating.

But then, deeply discontent with their manner of rule, the colonies rejected the Conservatives and became independent. This hurt Winston Churchill, among many of his party, who saw the Empire as much part of Great Britain as Surrey.

Until the 1960s at least, the Church of England was known as the Conservative Party at prayer. Then the CoE rejected the CP and became independent of mind. The bible had a quite different view of humanity from Mrs Thatcher’s bastardisation of Hayekian economics. How awful.

Scotland rejected the CP long ago, as first the party’s vote shrunk to very little and then the vision of self-determination took hold. Hardly surprising: it was treated much like an occupied country for 18 years, instructed from afar and useful only to test out such gems as the poll tax. And Scotland does have a mind of its own.

Brexit fervour

Such unusual modernists as Edward Heath flirted with and then joined the rest of Europe. But, the party’s soul, its perpetual anti-EU wing, had to be pacified with the promise of a referendum by a prime minister not expecting the parliamentary majority to accede to this, and, along with the rest of the established politicians and media, failing to recognise the depth of public discontent. Sufficient of the citizenry grasped the only opportunity it had to protest at its left-behind lot.

To the surprise of many, and despite the rationale for remaining and the obstacles to leaving, the CP has now emotionally left, embracing Brexit with a sudden fervour, immediately curious.

Brexit has become the future for the CP. Power has always been its overriding priority. Being elected to government takes precedence over all else. We saw how quickly the party got its ducks in a row after the internal mayhem and back stabbing of the referendum.

It has never had the qualms, reticence, or fixation with proving its moral superiority that has so lumbered the Labour Party. Labour continues to look a gift horse in the mouth, wallowing in its own nostalgia, whilst the Conservatives have the power the create their own version.

But for the failure of governance within the Labour Party, unable to change its leaders when necessary — Kinnock, Blair, Brown, Milliband, and now Corbyn — the Conservatives would not be in office and we would not be in this particular fix. But they are and we are.

Theresa May may be playing a long game, knowing that tactically the government has to be seen to be following the ‘will of the people’, no matter how bewilderingly expressed, thence to allow a ‘week in politics’ to pass before plucking another referendum out of the hat to allow a balanced decision to be made.

The last country that will have it

Regardless of your pro or anti-Brexit preference and of whether it turns out to be a success, failure, or damp squib, a referendum on the actual terms of departure (preferably accompanied by public deliberation using independently produced information and assessments) would be entirely in keeping with the ‘will of the people’ thesis. Harold Wilson would have pulled that one off.

But my sense is that the soul of the Conservative Party is far happier on its own, ruling the last country on earth that will have it. It will hang on to First Past The Post to secure its continuing majority and watch while its, thus far, only alternative party for government continues to fail to come to terms with the modern world, unable to leave its proud history where it belongs: in the history books.

When Theresa May announced the revival of grammar schools at the height of the Article 50 turmoil, I wondered ‘why on earth?’ It may have been a diversionary tactic, but I think it more a statement of intent, a return to the ‘golden’ days of England expressed through such symbols as selective education, tough welfare, inherited wealth, small state, the mythical and narcissistic ‘special relationship’ with the US, and the one true god: the private sector.

Look out for warm beer and cricket.

Unless something extraordinary happens, my forecast is that England will leave, taking Wales with it — where else can it go? It has its only Parliament but with less powers than Scotland. Its predominant southern economy is inseparable from that of the South West and Midlands of England. The Conservative vote as a proportion increased at the last election. The quest for full independence in Wales is quiescent.

Scotland may carve out its own destiny — tricky of course, with an armed border the prospect along a new Hadrian’s Wall — but the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has now called for a second independence referendum.


Which brings us to Ireland, a country that has spent a long while rejecting the CP, the South achieving independence nearly a century ago and the North finally settling into power sharing in 1998 (and now in need of a new settlement). It is worth recalling that the Conservatives in Westminster could once count on the Northern Ireland Unionists for its majority. Such loyalty ceased about 30 years ago.

It receives little coverage in England, but people in Ireland know well the huge issue of the North-South border, open now and a key part of the peace settlement and for the development of economic and social integration without political unification. But a continuing unbarred border would leave the back door to England wide open for EU migrants. A fenced, patrolled, and checked border would resurrect old divisions with unknown consequences.

Is there an elegant solution out there? Some sort of semi-unified Ireland? Or another way?

The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 did have some consummate politicians working on it. Whatever you may think personally of Tony Blair, Mo Mowlam, Peter Hain, and Peter Mandelson, they formed an extraordinary multi-skilled team to pull off that deal, with others. A similar coup is needed now. But it’s also worth noting that, without the skills or the interest, the CP could never have produced the Good Friday Agreement.

They will be remembered mostly for the opposite – internment and the warmongers’ ‘never negotiate with terrorists’.

The soul of the CP has no interest in Ireland. The border will be a long way down the negotiating list and will likely end as a To Be Decided fudge, at best borrowing from the Good Friday Agreement’s ‘constructive ambiguity’ clauses.

With Ireland, the Empire, the Church, continental Europe, and Scotland gone, what, who or where is left to rule? Well, its country of origin and where its soul resides. No one wants the Conservative Party except (some) of England.

The fall-out

Which then leaves us, who must look to the future even if it’s like looking into the past. Don’t expect u-turns, accommodations for neighbours, or even a guilty conscience for past foul-ups.

This is a party returning to its tribal homeland, leading the country into retirement, unhindered by a functioning opposition, surfing the waves of a fixed electoral system. Plan for the fall-out.

Ed Straw is a writer and campaigner to change the system of government and democracy

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

15 Responses to “England is the last place on earth the Conservative Party has left to rule”

  1. Will

    I hope that when it all falls apart the public don’t have to suffer too much. The conservatives (and aristocracy) have always been sabre rattling warmongers. The only time they need the ordinary folk is when they have pushed the world too far and cannot sort their problems out diplomatically. Their arrogant “born to rule” feelings are sending this country over the cliff once more. Will people never learn?

  2. David Farrell

    What a lot of crap by a bunch of washed out lefties, with nothing to live for except moan about the world .
    Get over your selves.

  3. Glenn Town

    But it was the “ordinary” folk who voted for brexit. Not the aristocracy or loony left.

  4. John Murray

    It is unbelievable that a decision as momentous as Brexit should be triggered by such a small margin as the referendum. A decision of that magnitude would normally require a 2/3rd majority.

    It is also the case that the slim majority was the result of false propaganda by the Leave party.

    Thirdly, many people who voted to leave did so with no expectation of actually winning the vote. Many voted leave as a protest vote at the massively unequal way the wealth of the country is concentrated in such small areas and by so few people. For them, any change has to be for the better.

    Forming the European Community / Union was a fantastic achievement. All those countries with a long history of bloodshed and war behind them suddenly reconciled.

    I’m not saying that the Union was without its faults. It was well known for its burgeoning bureaucracy and other problems. But the answer, surely, is to fix these issues, not to walk away.

    What a stupid, stupid waste.

  5. John Williams.

    The Loony Left only have Scotland left under their control,and look at the mess there.The UK is still paying off the huge debt left by the last Labour Government.

  6. Paul

    And once Mays empire come crashing down people will see the light and realise that only Jeremy Corbyn can end austerity, only Jeremy Corbyn can bring us bread and only Jeremy Corbyn can deliver us a people’s BREXIT! There is only one God and his name is Marx and Jeremy is his messenger. Anyone who believes in him shall have free healthcare at the point of delivery.

  7. Jordan van den Berg

    “Left Foot Forward is a political blog for progressives. We provide evidence-based analysis of British politics, policy, and current affairs.”

    There is nothing progressive about the Left in teh world – what is progressive about the limousine liberal Hilary Clinton? What is progressive about the waterboarding & the beatings Greece has taken from Germany & the EU?

    The progressives need a new tune.

  8. Sam

    ‘Being elected to government takes precedence over all else..’
    It seems a bit rich to use that as an attack on the Tory’s, as it is the purpose of any political party – in order to enact their programme. The only UK political party that seems to reject that basic truth seems to be Corbyn’s Labour…

  9. jane

    I’m an ordinary person who voted for Brexit;I’m also well educated ,able to make my own decisions and not by any means a natural Tory supporter.
    The Labour party lurches from crisis to crisis,and becomes little more than a protest movement,led by the unelectable Mr Corbyn.
    Meanwhile,here in Scotland,we are facing the threat of yet another referendum; no one I know wants one;we are suffering from referendum fatigue and face the prospect of yet more rancour and division,thanks to the SNP.

  10. Mick Sherman

    If Brexit leads to a united Ireland, this will be such a blessing that Brexit would be worth it for that reason alone.

    It was the ordinary people, many of them Labour voters, who rejected the EU. They made the right decision. That the Tories then swung behind Brexit may not reflect well on their integrity, but it is the right move for all that, just like the way they swung behind Churchill in 1940.

    Sovereignty at a national level is just like liberty at a personal level. All the rest flows from that.

  11. David

    I think your article is very biased by people who supports the remain side and will use every trick in the book at any cost by trying divide the county against one another. Never mind that you are trying to sell the uk drown the drain like this article is.
    Surely it it does not matter what your politics are on the UK/EU front we voted to leave as the UK we should now be all working together as the UK to get the best deal for the UK it’s not about one side getting their way over the other. We should be supporting Theresa May as she is the best chance we have of getting a decent deal, we need soneone like her to do the job in hand.

    As for Scotland the SNP ARE NOT A AVERY DEMOCRATIC PARTY they lost their previous referendum by a large margin and are showing total disrespect to their fellow Scots in trying to get their way no matter what the cost to Scotland & the UK. For people whose memories are short the 20 14 referendum was sold by SNP as a once in a lifetime chance, and yet within days/weeks the SNP were pushing for another one.

  12. John Nutt

    An interesting theory if somewhat one sided. The Empire is long gone, and the Common Wealth as it is are all independent countries joined to the UK like European countries are to the EU. So if this is to be the future for Great Britain so be it we have had a good innings.

  13. Richard

    Your suggestion that Ireland became independent to get away from the Tory Party is somewhat misleading. I’m not sure your understanding of the history of the Ulster Unionists is entirely up to scratch either. You seem to have forgotten all the English people that voted remain, and your suggestion that the Welsh are just being ‘dragged’ along with the English is ridiculous. I suggest more in depth research before a further post.

  14. Rusty SpikeFist

    will just say I think this is quite unfair to Jeremy Corbyn. he is doing his best under the circumstances, and probably the best anyone could, but he’s critically hindered by having to fight a war on a second front with the PLP, who is far more concerned with protecting their prerogatives than with fighting Brexit or the Conservatives altogether.

  15. uglyfatbloke

    David; the situation in Scotland is that the government was elected on manifesto commitment to bring about a second referendum in the light of material change specifically Brexit.

Leave a Reply