As Tory MPs limber up for one of their favourite pastimes – a leadership election – there is lots of talk about One Nation. The phrase is drawn from one of the novels by former Tory Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It describes the idea that the Conservative Party should govern in the interests of the whole country – of all people and all classes – and not just the better off.
One of the main reasons why I decided that I no longer belonged in the Conservative Party is that it became clear that the party’s commitment to govern for the whole country was being sidelined in favour of an extreme ideological project – the desire for a No Deal Brexit. Although most of the candidates to replace Theresa May have trotted out ritual affirmations of their belief in One Nation conservatism, her most likely successor, Boris Johnson, is much more interested in winning back the support of voters who defected to the Brexit Party in the European elections and last week’s by-election in Peterborough.
Who are these new recruits to Nigel Farage’s latest army? How representative are they of the country as a whole? A recent survey of 1,600 voters conducted by the pollster YouGov confirms that support for a No Deal Brexit is driven by older voters in more comfortable circumstances. 48% of voters over 60 years old say that No Deal Brexit is the outcome they most prefer. Only 17% of voters under 30 years old agree. It is surely no coincidence that support for No Deal Brexit is highest among people who own their homes outright and have a secure pension. Working people, facing large monthly mortgage payments or rent, and relying on wages from employment, are much more likely to worry about the risk that No Deal Brexit will cause major economic disruption and put their jobs in jeopardy.
Britain’s next Prime Minister will be chosen by the 125,000 members of the Conservative Party. Most of them are over 55 years old, and financially secure. Most of them support a No Deal Brexit. They do not represent the whole country and nor will the person they choose. Britain desperately needs a strong leader who will govern in the national interest. The two main parties look set to offer them a choice between No Deal Brexit with Boris Johnson or another referendum with Jeremy Corbyn. No wonder so many people are rejecting both. We can do so much better.