Friday, 6 April 2018

London Tories Want to Distance Themselves from National Party

There is an interesting piece in The Spectator, by Will Heaven, a Tory supporting publication, which tells us about a plan by London Tories to have a different identity to that of rural and provincial English Toryism. Seemingly, taking notice of an Evening Standard piece by Ruth Davidson, top London Tories believe they need to re-brand the party in London’s image. London Tory MPs and councillors are backing the plan. As one Tory cabinet minister puts it: ‘There is only one word to describe the party in London: screwed.’

London’s Tories are suggesting that they formally break away from the national party and become a separate entity with their own brand and leader, like the Scottish Tories under Ruth Davidson.

Davidson as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, has led a revival in the party’s fortunes north of the Border, by changing the image of the party to a more liberal one, than which Scots previously associated the Tories with. She is, of course, an open lesbian, which certainly helps in dispelling the normal Tory characterisation.

London Tories even asked the Scottish Tories to replicate their campaign in Scotland, in London. Apparently, the Scottish Tories politely declined, because it takes a lot of time and effort to change perceptions, it is no easy business.

In the end the Tory party nationally has torpedoed the London Tories plans, but doesn’t appear to have any better ideas for reviving the party’s fortunes in the capital.

For the Tories in London, the problem is clear, their image does not fit in with how Londoners feel about politics and life in general. The average Tory supporter in 65 years old, white and male. Contrast this to the average Londoner, who is 36 years old, which must be why I feel so old these days. Added to this, 40% of London’s population is non white, and is generally better educated and liberal in outlook. Doesn’t sound like a description of the Tory party does it?

According to the Spectator piece, the problem for London Tories, is spreading, from inner to outer London, and even surrounding areas like Surrey. People are moving out of inner London, to these commuter areas, but bring their liberal values with them.

Then of course there is Brexit, which 60% of Londoners voted against, the only region in England to do so. The blame for the Brexit fiasco is being firmly laid at the feet of the Tory party by Londoners. Labour now thinks it can capture Boris Johnson’s Parliamentary seat in suburban Ruislip in west London, at the next general election.

Fears of something of a wipe-out for the Tories in London, at next month’s local authority elections, where every council seat in London is up grabs, as the polls predict, has also focussed minds amongst London Tories. It is too late to do anything about this election now, but for the future something needs to change in the perception of the Tory party by Londoners, if the Tories are not to be a very minor player in London politics.

Some MPs are said to think the party can win the general election in 2022 but will lose massively five years later because of how much Britain will have changed. Older voters dying off and being replaced by younger voters on the register, may take a few years to feed through and decisively alter the electorate calculus, but it looks to be coming in the not too distant future.

The problem for the Tories in London is similar to that of UKIP, although perhaps less stark. At the height of their electoral prowess, four years ago when these elections were last held, UKIP did poorly in London, in contrast to the rest of England. Suzanne Evans, a former chair of the party commented that Londoners were ‘too young, too educated and too cultured’ for UKIP to get any traction in the capital. Never a truer word has been uttered by a UKIP representative about anything, I think.

Far be it for me to give advice to the Tories, but it is blindingly obvious that Londoners have a very different outlook on life to people who live in the shires or small towns, and if anything the Tory party looks to be moving away from the values of cosmopolitan voters, not just in London. It is Brexit of course that has widened this gap, but if the Tories continue to chase Brexit minded people only, they can kiss goodbye to London electorally.

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