Neoliberals Need to Save the Conservative Party.

Jeremy Driver
4 min readJun 12, 2017


Conservative Party Conference 2011 / Photo: NCVO London

For the second time in 12 months the Conservative Party has set the country on fire. Instead of returning to 10 Downing Street with an unassailable majority, May limped over the threshold, 5 MPs short of a working majority. She should go, not immediately, but soon.

The party thought that we could grind Corbyn’s Labour Party into the ground. Instead we’ve left the country rudderless during one of our greatest crises. Sure, the result makes a soft Brexit more likely, but it also increases the odds of a catastrophic Brexit: the longer we have an unstable Government, the more time we waste as the Article 50 deadline ticks nearer.

The decision to hold an election was a mistake, not because we failed to win, but morally. It was a reckless and arrogant gamble made for narrow party political reasons and many voters saw through it. We ran a negative campaign based on fear and failed to learn from the Remain campaign that a message of “we might lose; the alternative is really scary” just isn’t plausible when you’re the one who called the vote.

To be charitable, the many attacks against Corbyn had the virtue of being true. Yet their truth just served to blind us to the fact that they weren’t sticking. His history with the IRA was already baked in to voters’ perception of him, and a sustained attack just looked like we were bullying the friendly old man who meant well. I’m 27 and can only just remember the Omagh bombing- there are many voters to whom the Troubles are just an event from history and our attacks seemed to make people, perhaps unfairly, begin to consider May’s faults equivalent to his.

Elsewhere our campaign was wooden, uninspired and trashed May’s carefully cultured image. Much hay has been made of her avoidance of the TV debates, but her failure to stand up to Trump for bullying Sadiq Khan after the London Bridge attack spoke volumes. It was obviously the right thing to do, both morally and politically, but she balked.

As Sam rightly points out, we also didn’t give people a reason to vote for us. In fact, we gave people a ton of reasons to actively go out and vote against us. Stupid, pointless policies like fox hunting, the net migration cap, reneging on the ivory trade ban and our baffling social care plans crowded out popular policies like the rise in the personal allowance. These, coupled with a relentless focus on a stupid, exclusionary Brexit emphasised our arrogance and the impression that many people aged under 40 have of us being “not for them”. In comparison, Corbyn ran a fun campaign with easy to remember policies that appeared to tackle problems that many people worry about. People may have thought he was a useless idiot, but at least they thought he cared. It is not surprising that so many people switched from us to them.

There were also structural problems with our ground campaign. Hindsight is a hell of a thing, and even Labour weren’t picking up on the level of support they were gaining in seats that they won, but it was clear weeks ago that we were going backwards in younger, city target seats like Nottingham South and struggling in places like Battersea (two seats I successfully bet against us in). Our resources should have diverted to more demographically favourable seats like Ashfield and to defending held seats. I expect more of the ineptitude of the CCHQ operation will come out in the next few weeks. In short, we are not nimble enough, handle volunteers badly and many of the people in charge just don’t get it.

So what is to be done? This reads like a very gloomy assessment of the state of the party and campaign, but it is important to stay positive. We won over 42% of the vote, an historic high; we made inroads in Scotland, successfully establishing ourselves as the unionist party; and there is a clear route to a majority, with 19 target seats having majorities under 1000 votes. In contrast, Labour’s route to a majority still lies through the midlands, an area they stood still in again, and the fundamental problems of the Corbyn leadership remain.

It’s concerning but understandable that so many voters under 40 found the Labour manifesto alluring. In comparison, I, a long-standing Conservative Member, struggled to muster the enthusiasm to vote for our offer. Much will be made in the coming months of a need for a “Tory momentum”, but that is the wrong approach- we don’t want another Conservative Future.

Instead, we should hit the ground running making the positive arguments for a neoliberal Conservative Party: a Conservative Party that cares about the real problems that people face, and tries to solve them; a Conservative Party that is single-minded in its pursuit of growth and sensibly redistributes its proceeds; and a Conservative Party that is willing to correct some of its past policy mistakes. The precarious state of our Parliament means that we should not wait for this to happen- we should start laying the intellectual groundwork now in preparation for a new leader or a snap election. We have a majority of the old vote, so our route to success is through convincing sensible younger voters that we are for them.

Despite resolutely failing to get near power, Corbyn’s hard left are ascendant in the Labour Party and here to stay. The Conservative Party remains the only vehicle for sensible, market-based governance, but needs a strong nudge to get there. The Neoliberals need the Conservative Party, and the Conservative Party needs them.