A no-deal Brexit is the only way to save the Conservative Party

A no-deal Brexit is the only way to save the Conservative Party

In 1993, the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada betrayed the trust of the public so spectacularly that it lost its absolute majority and won only two seats in the Canadian House of Commons. The party never recovered and was forced to merge with an upstart right-wing party which had hoovered up Tory votes after they failed to deliver on their promises.

If only the Canadian Tories had a warning sign – an election that didn’t exactly count but gave them a kicking – perhaps they could have spotted the impending doom. But then again, many Conservative MPs wouldn’t spot the omens if they hit them in the face, with most declared leadership candidates not seeming to have noticed that their party got less than 9% of the national vote while the no-deal Brexit Party stormed the recent European Parliament election.

The other day, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote an article saying a no-deal Brexit would amount to political suicide. He is mistaken. The Conservative Party is already on track to political suicide and his attempt to appease Remain MPs at the expense of the extremely annoyed grassroots isn’t helping.

Even the most sceptical voters have an inherent desire to trust their government, even if they don’t right now. Most Brexit Party supporters would love to believe that the recent shambles isn’t the usual state of play in Westminster. They like to think their country is still the home of fair play. To reassure them, the Conservatives must be radical. The Brexiteers promising never to vote Conservative again can still be persuaded that the deceitful Theresa May was an exception if the next leader is utterly uncompromising in their pursuit of a no-deal Brexit.

This can’t be half-hearted. They must be seen to embrace No Deal, to relish the prospect of it. To get over their understandable suspicion of Conservatives, voters have to believe the new leader is even more hardline than they are. The new Prime Minister must be so single-minded in their pursuit of not getting a deal that Tory voters begin urging Nigel Farage to join the Government, if only to offer some moderation.

This is not what is happening. Consider leadership hopeful Dominic Raab, who has suggested an ‘exchange of letters’ with the EU in an attempt to neutralise the backstop. That’s not going to cut the mustard for many in the current climate. It’s possibly a ploy to get Remain-inclined MPs on side before he pivots back to No Deal, but if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that politicians must be honest with the electorate. Any suggestion of maintaining parts of the dreaded Withdrawal Agreement would squander the chance to win back lost voters.

Despite what Remainers say, No Deal is possible. If we aim to leave on WTO terms, the EU could not stop us, and as a recent Institute For Government report concluded, the Remain-dominated Parliament could find no legal way to do so either. By contrast, there are serious risks if the party attempts to get a deal through. By tabling motions or putting laws before Parliament which remotely relate to leaving the EU, the constitutional gymnastics the Speaker is capable of might provide a way for Remainers to legislate against Brexit.

That’s why the next leader shouldn’t risk attempting a deal. And if there’s even a whiff of the Speaker trying to let the Opposition legislate against No Deal, the new leader must pass a law which stops the Opposition hijacking the House of Commons’ agenda. If that fails, then they need to prorogue Parliament.

If all this seems a bit too bold, or a bit unConservative, remember Tory MPs will have plenty of time to be unConservative if they fail to deliver Brexit and lose their seats. It happened in Canada in 1993 and based on the pitches currently being made for the leadership, I wouldn’t bet that it won’t happen here too.