Gareth Roberts Gareth Roberts

The Tory party myth isn’t real

Most governments are Whiggish can-kickers, indistinguishable on many issues

(Photo: Getty)

The Conservative party leadership contest (sometimes referred to as a ‘race’, which is pushing it) is nearing its end. It’ll be hard getting used to the world without it. We’re all such different people now, 900 years on. At least we’ll always have the misty water-coloured memories.

One thing that both candidates agree on is that things have come to a pretty pass, and something, possibly even lots of somethings, must be done, and done urgently. This has been very strange to behold, as if the Tories have just woken up in a parallel universe where some other mysterious and nefarious political party has been in power for the last 12 years.

It was that foggy entity which whacked up taxes, sold nuclear power stations to China, banned fracking because a munchkin was all cross at them, and sat back not-fussed while wokery gulped up the public sector. The most peculiar part of the spectacle has been Rishi Sunak urging Tory members to vote for Rishi Sunak to stop what Rishi Sunak has been doing – pledging to make a fresh start with Rishi Sunak after the disastrous policies of Rishi Sunak.

People join or vote for – or against – a Platonic ideal of a party that can be very different from the physical truth

Such contests throw into sharp relief the difference between the tiny electorates of party memberships and – well, the remaining 100 per cent of the population. Truss and Sunak have been rabbiting on during the hustings about Mrs Thatcher, taxes and annoying social justice activism. These topics were hardly mentioned in public, for better or worse depending on taste, for the previous decade.

Similarly, Keir Starmer’s deep red pledges to the Corbynite left of Labour during his election in 2020 were the most transparent, contemptuous soft sell since Harry Enfield’s turn as owner of the posh junk shop ‘I Saw You Coming’.

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