Tory Party will rebuild but it WON'T be with Farage at the helm - Royston Smith

​​Prime Minister Rishi Sunak/Nigel Farage
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously suggested he would welcome Nigel Farage back into the party
Royston Smith

By Royston Smith

Published: 02/07/2024

- 16:11

Royston Smith is a former Tory MP

The British Conservative Party is the most successful political party in history. It is bigger than the individuals who have sought to lead it and mould it in their own image with one or two notable exceptions.

In its current form, from Disraeli through Churchill to Thatcher, the Conservative Party has shaped British and global politics for nearly two centuries.

As in all things, in politics, you have exceptional highs and of course notable lows. When we look back to the leadership of Churchill who faced down the onslaught of the murderous Nazi regime, standing alone against the German might until the US was eventually brought into the war.

Or to the courage and bravery of Margaret Thatcher who rolled back the state, introduced the Right to Buy, giving tenants of over five million local authority houses in England and Wales the right to buy their home, liberalised the markets and took on the unions. We Conservatives have much to be proud of.

As western liberal democracies become more entitled and self-indulgent, they forget the struggles of the past at their peril. The rise both economically and militarily of the autocracies will eventually need to be addressed.

The freedom and democracy we have enjoyed for decades is not guaranteed, and Reform offer nothing for our security in the interconnected global world we live in.

Nigel Farage and Reform claim to be trying to tap into the Conservative Party’s past and reimagine it for the future. But Farage’s plan to win election in Clacton, fold into the Conservative Party and recreate it in his own image will never happen. He talks about the Party as though it is merely its MPs.

It is not. It is nearly 200 years of history, with a proud past and a bright future. It is not a single-issue movement moving from one band wagon to another.

It is at its best not when it seeks to govern from the centre ground but from the common ground. Margaret Thatcher knew that, Nigel Farage does not.

There is no doubt that Farage is popular with a group of people, to deny it would be madness, but to fall into the trap of thinking the Party he leads speaks for anything like a majority of people in the country is to misunderstand where the public are.

His campaign in Clacton will be defining. He is the bookies favourite to win but that is in no way guaranteed.

If he loses, politically it will be over for him, but if he wins, he will find his grand plan to take over the Conservative Party and run against Sir Keir Starmer in 2029 is the fantasy most of us think it is.

A handful of Conservative MPs might like the idea of Farage as leader of the Conservative Party, but a handful of politicians do not speak for the party.

They are more likely to have to join him and one or two other Reform MPs on the back benches where they will agitate but never govern.

For all the Conservative Party’s faults, it is bigger than any individual and it is certainly bigger than Nigel Farage.

There is much to do after July 4th to rebuild and repair the Conservative brand, but it will do that in the way it always has, and it will not be with Nigel at the helm.

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