Life after death

Jun 28, 2024By Pete North


In which Peter  eads the entrails of the roadkill that was the right wing of British politics ...

It's pretty normal to be politically homeless right now. I've been a political vagrant for since 2015. I voted Tory to secure an in/out referendum on the EU, and I've had nothing to vote for ever since. I seem to end up living in Tory safe seats where there is no viable alternative, so there's been no outlet for my political energies. 

In 2021, I re-joined Ukip on the back of its manifesto because, to date, it's still the most intellectually coherent party, and it still has a dedicated top team. It also has a sizable social media reach. Running it as an academic exercise seemed like a useful way to pressure Reform into getting its act together. Beating up Reform over its woolly Net Zero policies resulted in a subtle change of policy. I think Ukip can claim credit for that. 

As such, I have no animosity to Ukip, but I don't think it will ever be a serious force in politics again, There's too much baggage. Maybe with a rebrand and a cash injection it could find a role for itself, but there's too much sentimental attachment to the brand. I am no longer sure what function it serves and I'm not taken with the new leadership. All that's left is to wish them well. 

More recently, in search of a new home, I decided to take a second look at Reform. What struck me first and foremost was the lack of coherence. It was, and still is, a generic populist party with no intellectual depth. It could withstand mediocre leadership under Tice if they were developing a movement, but they weren't doing any of that work. 

This was abundantly obvious from various by-election results. In Blackpool and Wellingborough the Tory vote collapsed but it didn't find its way to Reform. Until recently, Reform was a fading star, and I don't think anything could have revived it. As a party it was run from the centre, with no ground operation, and with no strategy to speak of. It seems that Tice was just keeping the pilot light in in case of Farage's return, and that was the sole purpose. 

Under Farage, we see that none of the structural problems are likely to be addressed. Reform is having a glow up, but none of the work is being done to build a foundation. As such, it is a single use entity to punish the Tories. 

Obviously the Tories do need to be punished. The last three years have been an act of demographic vandalism that Britain may never recover from. The new sectarianism we're seeing in this election is here to stay and it's only going to get worse. Without more robust immigration policies, it's not fixable. And Reform won't go that far even if it was a serious party. 

What muddies the waters, though, is that Peter Hitchens is not wholly wrong. An unopposed Labour party is a dangerous thing. Reform supporters are determined to wipe the Tories of the map, but in doing so, they ensure there is nothing to be salvaged from the wreckage. I would have more sympathy for Reform's position if Reform was being forged into a replacement vehicle, but it just isn't. Reform is not poised to make a big breakthrough, and it will not be allowed to merge with the Tory party. It is a dead strategy.  

That said, I'm now of the view that it doesn't matter either way. I've taken a closer look at the Tory party and spoken to a lot of local activists. The impression I get is that the party's infrastructure is either dead or on life support from CCHQ, and as such, the party is already in a death spiral, with or without Reform. I doubt the result would be much different if Reform didn't exist.

Some are of the view that Reform could merge with the Tory right after the election, to become a new force in politics, but I'm not sure there will even be a Tory right after this election. Moreover, Steve Baker has shown us their true nature. They'll say anything to save their own skins.

In any case, the Tory wets are not the whole of the problem. The Tory right, such as it is, is made up of profoundly unserious people, and the nation simply does not want MAGA infused zombie Thatcherism. That Liz Truss is the leading light of "popular conservatism" should tell you all you need to know.

This means that by next week, the right will be more or less vanquished from British politics. Farage will have his day in the sun, but it's all downhill from there. Reform might muster a repeat performance in 2029, but will not be able to break through the inherent barrier that goes with dog-whistle populism. 

By way of Labour's unpopularity, the zombie Tory party might recover some ground, and depending on how awful Labour is, we could end up with a hung parliament in which Starmer has to go cap in hand to the Islamist contingent - to become more dangerous than ever. 

By my reckoning, then, we have ten years to build an alternative. That alternative must be a coherent party with strong local roots. Anything else will be a flash in the pan, probably born from within the establishment, essentially courting the same base as Reform - which will go nowhere for similar reasons. 

My current thinking, therefore, is that with so little time to develop something from scratch, the SDP is the obvious candidate for further development. It has a coherent intellectual foundation, it can steal votes from Labour and the Tories, it is building locally and its growth is not contingent on media exposure and flamboyant leadership. We have to build something that can withstand the departure of its leader. 

I am aware the SDP has certain shortcomings, but you can't expect to 100% agree with any party. What it does have, where the others do not, is growth potential - which is the single most important factor. 

As a party it recognises the danger of unfettered free trade in a multi-polar world, it rejects neoliberalism, and recognises the need to govern Britain as a homeland, thus rejects the new sectarianism. It also proposes a complete freeze on immigration. As a start, that's good enough. More to the point, it's all we've got - unless you know different. aims to provide efficient and common sense government without the millstone of dogmatic politics