The people I feel most sorry for in the wake of Theresa May’s shock announcement are not moderate Labour MPs, nor even the pollsters, who really will be in trouble if they get another election wrong. No, it’s the bankers’ wives of west London. If the EU is going to be the No.1 issue in the campaign, and the Tories are standing on a pro-Brexit platform, how will the poor dears vote?
On the one hand, they were very, very angry about the outcome of the EU referendum and, even today, they’re not above buttonholing leavers at cocktail parties and giving them the hairdryer treatment. They regard David Cameron as criminally negligent —‘How could he let this happen?’ — and Theresa May as a ‘turncoat’. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I’ve ‘betrayed’ my children, although it’s hard for them to sustain the tone of moral indignation when, in the next breath, they talk about the ‘terrible uncertainty’ now afflicting their live-in housekeeper Agnieszka Kowalski.
But on the other hand, who else can they vote for? Corbyn? Admittedly, there is something ‘rather charming’ about the fact that he has an allotment and he’s ‘authentic’ and ‘passionate’ and ‘dead right’ about the NHS. But didn’t he just say he wants to impose VAT on school fees? That strikes them as a bit ‘unfair’. It’s not that they’re worried about their own bank balances — of course not! — but their ‘struggling’ friends in the media who are making ‘huge sacrifices’ to send Arthur and Xanthippe to Notting Hill Prep. Why, only last year the Bottomly-Smythes had to give up their membership of the Campden Hill Lawn Tennis Club! No, you have to think of the less fortunate.
How about the Greens? So much to admire there! Everything they say about the need to save the planet and how materialistic we’ve all become and how we need to be more like people in the Third World is ‘so, so true’. But unfortunately one of Caroline Lucas’s most eye-catching policies during the last general election campaign was to raise the top rate of tax to 60 per cent. That wouldn’t matter so much if only George (always referred to by his first name) hadn’t abolished non-dom status, which has made it so much harder for their husbands to avoid paying tax.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the increase in stamp duty to 12 per cent on houses worth more than £1.5 million has already ‘destroyed’ the London property market. Luckily, the chalet in Verbier seems to be holding its value.
It’s got to be the Lib Dems, hasn’t it, particularly if you live in Twickenham, where you’ll have a chance to vote for the ‘brilliant’ Vince Cable. OK, Tim Farron does look a bit like ‘that funny little man’ who deals with the moles at their place in the country, but he’s ‘so strong’ on Europe. And if they’re going to wear a rosette — ‘Do they still wear rosettes?’ — Lib Dem yellow goes so much better with the camel-hair pashmina than the other party colours.
But hang on. Didn’t the Lib Dems vote to ‘phase out’ faith schools at their last party conference? That would be a little unfair on Claudia, the Pilates instructor, who was ‘on her knees to avoid the fees’ at St Peter’s for five years and has a son at St Mary Abbots in Kensington and a daughter at the Grey Coat Hospital school in Westminster. And aren’t the Cleggs’ children at faith schools, too? A tad hypocritical, that one.
OK, OK. Back to the Tories. Can they bring themselves to vote for a party that actually wants to follow through on ‘that terrible blunder’? But let’s be realistic. They’re 21 points ahead in the polls so they’re bound to win, however many seats the Lib Dems manage to pick up in the West Country.
And if the Prime Minister romps home with a thumping majority, won’t that mean the ‘ghastly’ Eurosceptics will be less influential? It could result in a soft Brexit, which Theresa May would clearly prefer because, you know, she’s not insane. A Tory government that didn’t include Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson — the ultimate villain because ‘he didn’t really believe in it’ — would certainly be a lot more palatable. With a majority of over 100 she could throw them under a bus, right? And if the bus in question had ‘that blatant lie’ on it about giving £350 million to the NHS, so much the better.
Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.