No Prize for Second Place - Sending the Tories to the Opposition Benches
Surprising remarks from Douglas Ross, the leader of the Tory Party in Scotland saying that the most important thing for voters is to remove the SNP and prevent another independence referendum, raised eyebrows among his colleagues north of the border, as he implied that voters should vote Labour to oust the SNP.
His remarks understandably provoked admonishment from Conservative Party HQ south of the border. On the face of it, his suggestion seemed reasonable: a party with 25% of the vote and 6 seats out of 59 at the last election surely must find a better way to take on a ruling dynasty with 46 seats held with 45% of the vote.
But seen from a Westminster Tory party already nervous about losing scores of English marginal seats at the next general election, the prospect of also being ousted by tactical voters in its safer strongholds is nothing short of a nightmare.
Twenty-six years ago, during the election campaign which swept New Labour to power and decimating a corrupt (by 1990’s standards) and sleaze-infested Tory government, there was one epic contest won not by Labour but by the non-politician, seasoned war reporter Martin Bell.
The target of his campaign, in the ultra-safe Conservative stronghold of Tatton in Cheshire, was the career Tory politician Neil Hamilton, who had been accused, along with some Conservative colleagues, of accepting cash to ask pertinent questions in the Commons. Unlike two colleagues who resigned over their behaviour, Hamilton fought on, first unsuccessfully suing the Guardian for its coverage of his role in the affair, then standing to defend himself in the general election, seeking a fourth term in office.
With no party machine behind him and a handful of friends and family members in his campaign team, Bell was able to persuade both the Liberal Democrat and Labour candidates to stand aside, allowing him a clear run at first place. After an ill-tempered and at times vicious battle, in the end the war correspondent prevailed in the battle, overturning Hamilton’s 16,000-vote majority and handing an 11,000-vote victory to the Independent. The True & Fair Party’s candidate for the 2024 general election is now taking on Ester Esther McVey who has been MP for Tatton since 2017 when she was handed the safe seat when George Osbourne stood down. McVey found notoriety as part of the team delivering the cruellest of austerity cuts during her time as MP for Wirral West.
More recently in June 2022, Richard Foord, the retired army officer and candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton ousted a sitting Tory, aided by probably thousands of Labour voters who ‘lent’ their votes to the best-placed challenger.
Isolated instances, or mid-term anomalies, the losers would have us believe. But as strategic signposts to how Britain can and must go about transforming and modernising its electoral system, they help point to a necessary first step.
A step towards change that will allow more diverse, diligent voices to be heard in Westminster. A fairer voting system is also a necessary move towards bringing together the best talent the country needs to re-equip and rebuild Britain’s economy, political system, and society for the challenging decades ahead.
English Tories used to profit from the status quo, crony contracts, lucrative lobbying, incompetent government, and an absence of strategic thinking or vision for our country are right to fear a changed landscape characterised by new ideas, new thinking, new politics.
Even though trust in government is at an all-time low, having plummeted after the premiership of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, we cannot take anything for granted.
An increasingly disillusioned and disenfranchised electorate, viewing all politicians the same – them and us. Biased media pumping populists headlines, bribes dressed up as tax and pension handouts and pre-election faux war policies, a Labour party pursuing the same indefensible gutter politics, a shy but loyal Tory vote, and a minority Conservative government after the next general election is the next nightmare waiting the UK.
Until and unless a proportional representative system of voting is enacted, the increasing numbers who feel fed up with politics, politicians and the status quo will have no choice but to vote tactically to remove the toxic Tory incumbents.
Few have put it more succinctly than Tory Peer Lord Agnew who stated in his January 2022 resignation speech, following the Johnson government’s decision to write off £4.3 billion of fraudulent COVID loans. Agnew, the Treasury Minister for Efficiency and Transformation, and responsible for anti-fraud measures, pointed to the billions that were granted amid a sea of ‘schoolboy errors.’
He cited a government whose attitude to fraud was characterised by ‘arrogance, ignorance and indolence, … freezing the government machine’ and stalling any attempt at effective loss recovery.
The Scottish Tory leader spoke for a much wider group than his own supporters when he suggested tactical voting to bring about change. His Westminster handlers have cause to be nervous.
We have witnessed the success of tactical voting on a minor scale, it now needs to be on a national scale for the next general election.
The time has come for disenchanted UK voters to stop voting for the ‘Less Bad Party’ because the ‘others don’t stand a chance.’ With organisation, focus and breaking the cynical cycle of the FPTP voting system we can be the ones that bring about a better system of government.
It would be wonderful if Labour, Lib Dems and in Scotland the SNP focused on their target seats to achieve a landslide Tory defeat. In the ‘blue corridor seats’ where True & Fair candidates are standing; Labour and Lib Dems should stand aside. But in the absence of what appears to be their willingness to fight for our common good, we the electorate must stand up for democracy and a future we deserve.
Investment Researcher and Consultant
True & Fair Party Member