The lessons to be learned from the Conservatives’ poor showing in the election could fill more pages than the national curriculum. Don’t unleash on the public a manifesto which has not even been tested among senior ministers. Don’t think you can get through a seven-week election campaign by endlessly repeating the same mantra, especially when you are being ridiculed for it. Don’t underestimate how quickly public opinion can change. Sell yourself, your party and its ideas, rather than just attacking your opponent.
Yet there is a serious danger that Theresa May and the rest of the Tory party could pick up the wrong message. There is a growing narrative that the Tories lost their majority because voters did not really want Brexit, even though four in five voted for parties whose manifesto promised Brexit. The party of Remain, the Liberal Democrats, did not manage to rally many people to its cause. The country has moved on from the EU referendum even if certain politicians (and David Cameron) have not.
The more interesting discussion is about what Britain would look like after Brexit, a conversation the Tories did not really start. Which brings us to the next wrong lesson from the election: that the public have voted against ‘austerity’. It must be tempting for MPs who have survived an electoral fright to think that opening the spending taps could save them from oblivion. But piling debt on to the next generation is as immoral now as it was in 2010, when a combination of recession and Gordon Brown’s overspending nearly collapsed the economy.
‘Austerity’ is just a populist phrase to describe good economic sense. There is nothing really austere about our public spending, which has grown year-on-year. In spite of cuts to some budgets, the government is still borrowing about £50 billion a year — overall government debt has doubled since the crash to stand at £1.7