Why May must Walk Away as fast as she can.
The 2017 General Election was won by the Conservative Party. It was a narrow victory but so was Cameron’s 2010 victory. Anyone watching the news or reading the Guardian could be forgiven for missing the fact that the Tories won.
The first and most important lesson to take home about the 2017 election is that it had little to do with Jeremy Corbyn. We all witnessed the broadcast media reviling Corbyn until 2017 and then suddenly showing him as the great leader being cheered by crowds of young voters. In 2016 we all heard the broadcast media stressing that Theresa May was a businesslike contender for the Tory leadership and then, in 2017 relentlessly focussing on May’s disasters and catastrophes, inefficiencies and ineptitudes. Why did this happen? I can recall being at a Dinner Party where a FTSE 100 director said “I think it is time to give Labour a chance” when only six months before he was apoplectic about the possibility of a return to 1970s extremism if Corbyn were elected. Lord Ashcroft Polls (shown in a graph in the picture above) show that this change happened nationally.
The politics of the rise of Labour is simple: Remain voters voted Labour.
The vote for Labour by some voters was little more than spite because many voted on the spur of the moment. “More than half (57%) of those who voted Labour made their decision in the last month, and more than a quarter (26%) in “the last few days [before the election]”.” (Lord Ashcroft Polls).
Labour actually benefited from their disunity and dithering on Brexit. They were able to field people during the election who hinted that a second referendum was needed or the Single Market was needed and many Remain voters saw this as a glimmer of hope for their waning cause. Neither a second referendum nor membership of the Single Market are now official Labour policy.
A strong Conservative Party would realise that nothing will destroy support for Labour more than a rapid Brexit. Once Brexit is out of the way the broadcast media will return to domestic politics and start asking whether 1970s policies are truly appropriate for the twenty first century. Once out of the EU the FTSE 100 directors who voted Labour will never do so again and the young will have one less reason for not voting Conservative.
A rapid Brexit is the simplest option. Tariffs are low between the EU and the rest of the world, there are high tariffs on food but even then the annual bill that would be paid by the UK in tariffs to the EU is surprisingly low. If the UK simply left the EU without a deal the EU would be paying the UK £12.9bn pa in tariffs against the UK’s tariff payments to the EU of £5.2bn. The UK could leave the EU, declaring that UK industry needs certainty, and continue to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement from the outside. Northern Ireland is a straightforward problem, Northern Irish importers could be asked to declare imports from or via the EU and there could be spot checks on the veracity of these declarations. Large movements of goods could be easily spotted and checked directly by Customs, with the focus being on food and car imports. There will be fraud but the losses will not be important for the UK economy as a whole.
The greatest, perhaps existential, threat to the Tories is to provide a glimmer of hope for reversing Brexit as they approach the next election. The political message for the Tories is simple: Walk Away May!
See The Single Market: Good or Bad for the UK? for details of why the WTO Option will be fine.
This post was originally published by the author on his personal blog: http://pol-check.blogspot.com/2017/10/why-may-must-walk-away-as-fast-as-she.html