The coming election will see the establishment pitted against the people – and the people will win

The coming election will see the establishment pitted against the people – and the people will win

On 9th April 2019 I encountered a political first, which after 40 years of active campaigning is increasingly rare. That evening, while canvassing for support in Eccles, a small working-class village in the otherwise prosperous and leafy council ward I represent in Kent, I encountered loathing and hatred.

At door after door (I think eleven consecutive properties), they left me in no doubt that they hated who I was and everything I stood for.

I have encountered anger before, which of us has not? During the Poll Tax, the ERM debacle and MPs’ expenses they hated what we had done. But this was different. Now they hated “us” for who we were and what we represented. It didn’t matter whether you were a Thatcherite Brexiteer like me or a patrician elitist Remoaner, we were all as bad as each other. We were “them” and we were out to do them over. And what’s worse, every one of those angry, betrayed and hostile people was a former Conservative pledge.

And who can blame them? We promised (and delivered) a referendum but the leadership of the party they trusted called them “little Englanders”. Their Chancellor referred to them as “naïve”. And they endured lie after lie including the emergency budget, the moving of the Sangatte border to Dover, an immediate economic collapse, mass unemployment, civil unrest and destruction of living standards. Yet still they kept their faith both in their country’s ability to govern itself and more importantly in the democratic system. After all, in the propaganda sheet sent by the government to every household at a cost of £9 million, the Prime Minister clearly stated: “This is your decision, the government will implement what you decide.”

Then came the long list of “betrayals”. The leaving date that never was, the Chequers Deal which was for most a case of Brexit in Name Only, the next leaving date that came and went, and for many the final betrayal being the broken promises about “we shall not field candidates in the EU elections”.

The anger I encountered on the doorsteps of Eccles that evening was not directed at me personally or even at the Conservative Party, it was directed at a ruling elite. Those from all parties who gave people the right to speak then refused to listen to what they said.

In a country where we have our coalitions inside political parties, this anger – from both sides – could reshape those coalitions as never before. The big question is if this realignment be for one election only or in the longer term. What is clear is that the anger cuts across both sides of the debate, but it is real and won’t go away any time soon.

If Brexiteers were angry pre-2016, they are angrier now. Three years later we are still shackled to the corpse of a politically and morally bankrupt customs union, but we now have seen that it is not just the EU establishment who are determined to thwart our ambitions, but much of the elite British ruling class, too; from a majority of Members of both Houses of Parliament, the CBI, the Civil Service and now, in the eyes of many, the judiciary. It reflects the absolute absurdity of the situation when the Liberal Democrats and George Galloway seem principled when compared with the ruling elites.

What saddens me most, however, apart from the inability of our parliamentarians to deliver what they promised, is the collateral damage they are doing to the democratic process. I am fortunate to have cut my political teeth in politics in the 1980s – a time when ideological differences were as strong and fierce (both within parties and our nation) as they are today, but when those entrusted to govern managed to do so with more grace and style that most this shower have between them. If you wish to see an example, you could do no better than to invest three quarters of an hour and watch the Panorama debate between Tony Benn and Roy Jenkins during the 1975 EEC referendum: two parliamentarians as far apart personally, politically and emotionally as any today, but who managed to debate with mutual respect and without soundbites or personal rancour.

I care little about the contorted red-faced harridans and sanctimonious puffballs bringing ridicule on themselves, but when their antics start to ridicule Parliament and undermine faith in democracy, then we should all be concerned. It is a pitiful reflection on the quality of many who enter Parliament that they either cannot see, or do not care, about the wider and deeper implications of their behaviour.

The next election will not be fought on traditional party lines. It will be fought on the battleground of “us versus them”, the people versus the establishment – an election between the national interest against their self-interest. And the people will win. Why? Because we will be fighting with our hearts and souls for our beliefs; they will be fighting simply to defend their privilege.

The Conservatives must stand unequivocally on the side of the hard-working majority; those who do what’s right, play by the rules and pay their fair share. Bring it on.