Tories are even more widely loathed than they dared imagine - GulfToday

Tories are even more widely loathed than they dared imagine

Rishi Sunak 55

Rishi Sunak. File

Tom Peck, The independent

The fact there was really nothing the Tories could say didn’t stop them trying. What were they meant to offer? In the buildup to Thursday’s local elections, they’d tried their hardest to manage expectations by very publicly claiming that they expected to lose 1,000 seats, a “target” they are now expected to surpass by some margin.

That they’d fought an election campaign that did not appear to consist of very much more than party chairman Greg Hands going around the country flapping a 13-year-old note about there “not being any money left” around, in the futile hope that someone might possibly think that the country is better governed now than then.

It’s not clear whether Tory MPs who went on television trying to do damage limitation had been told to just say anything at all, but that’s exactly what they did.

Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood in Kent, which now has a Labour council for the first time in 25 years, believed that the problem was that the government — her own government — is trying to build too many houses.

At that exact moment, her colleague Charles Walker was telling Times Radio that the problem was that they weren’t building enough.

The former leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom popped up at one point to claim that the new rules on voter ID weren’t just a cynical scam to disenfranchise people who don’t vote Conservative, and instead were designed to give the public “increased confidence” in the voting system. And then, without pause for breath, she went on to explain why these brand new, extra reliable election results actually don’t mean what they very obviously do mean, and it’s actually all a bit more complicated than that. It isn’t.

Meanwhile, veterans minister Johnny Mercer in Plymouth mumbled something indistinct about taking it “on the chin”, but luckily for him no one heard him beneath the sound of the deafening cheers of Labour activists celebrating the victory he was trying to play down. What he actually said was that it had been a “terrible night”. But, mainly, people will just remember the wince.

Given roughly eight hours to conjure something passable, Hands seized upon a Conservative gain from Labour in Dudley, where Labour is apparently down on its results in 1995. It is hard not to think of Ralph Ineson’s character “Finchy” in The Office successfully throwing Martin Freeman’s shoes over a suburban leisure centre and declaring, “that’s the real quiz”. Take your victories where you can, they say. And, in this case, specifically Brierley Hill in Dudley and absolutely nowhere else.

The line they alighted on in the end is that there is no evidence of a swing towards Her Majesty’s Opposition. Rishi Sunak strolled out of Tory HQ and said so himself. “I am not detecting any massive groundswell of movement toward the Labour Party,” he said, before doing his best to repeat his five big pledges: “halve inflation”, although it’s currently going up; “cut NHS waiting lists”, on which there are currently seven million people; to “reduce national debt”, after borrowing has risen on his watch; “growing the economy”, which has been stagnant for a decade; and to “stop the boats”, even though there is still no reason to believe his big plan on that front, to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, is legal.

A triumphant Keir Starmer trumpeted that “very, very good” Labour is on course for a majority in the next election. The celebrated pollster Professor Sir John Curtice quickly poured cold water on that particular victory lap, noting that while the results Labour “should be the largest party in the next Parliament”, it was “still uncertain” whether they would win an outright majority.

The trouble is that other voices have already spotted the problem here for Rishi. Lord Finkelstein, a Conservative peer, patiently explained to Times Radio that the “main force in British politics” is antipathy towards Tories. That all over the country, the voters appear to be doing everything they can to vote against them. If they’ve decided they hate you, it really doesn’t matter all that much if they don’t like the other guy either.

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