It has taken a while to get into full swing this summer but there is no doubt that silly season has arrived.
The fury over Boris Johnson’s comments about the burka has been fuelled by centrist, anti-Brexit, anti-free speech Blairites who have infiltrated the Conservative Party.
This complete over-reaction has led to the former Foreign Secretary having to face a supposedly ‘independent’ inquiry, launched by Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis, who dislikes Johnson and has already made it clear that he believes his comments were offensive. To say it will be a kangaroo court is an understatement.
These astonishing attacks on Boris over the past few days have demonstrated how much the Party is out of touch with its grassroots. When a Tory Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Party are openly opposing freedom of speech, you know the party is in serious trouble.
This shift away was spearheaded by David Cameron who made the Conservative Party unrecognisable during his reign. There was the obvious shift from ‘small c’ conservative principles but more than that, it was the complete transformation of the Party HQ that led to the destruction of the party.
Appointing centrists to senior advisory positions of power, filling the candidates list with soft conservatives at best – liberal democrats at worst and adopting policies completely out of stead with conservatism are just some of the reasons we have ended up where we are now. Although Cameron has gone, the situation is still very similar.
The behaviour of the unelected and deeply unpopular Brandon Lewis is a complete abuse of his position. He is seeking to take the whip from Mr Johnson so that he cannot stand in the leadership contest when Mrs May inevitably falls in the Autumn. It is the worst kept secret in Westminster that Mr Lewis facies himself as the next PM and is currently installing his cronies into the Matthew Parker Street HQ to further this ambition.
Boris is undeniably a contender and one backed by the Party grassroots. Whether he can secure the support of his colleagues to make it through to the final two names put to the Tory faithful remains to be seen but trying to remove him from the running because of his comments about the burka will cause irreversible anger amongst the grassroots.
Those at the highest echelon of the Conservative Government and those steering the Tory machine are as far removed from the grassroots as possible. There has always been a certain level of hostility between associations and Tory HQ, but never to the degree witnessed since the PM’s disastrous decision to pursue Brexit in name only.
Theresa May was never selected by card-carrying Tory members and the truth is, if Andrea Leadsom had not stood aside, Leadsom would have almost certainly won the support of the grassroots who were sceptical of the remain backing Mrs May.
Boris is the grassroots favourite and attempts by Brandon Lewis and other centrist Remainers to take him out of the running will cause even more resentment and fracture the Party even further. This assault on freedom of speech by a Conservative Party Chairman certainly strengthens the case for an elected Party Chair – a vote Mr Lewis would never win. But more than that, it is more evidence that the party has lost its values and beliefs and is in serious trouble.
If the Party continues down this route, there are two possible outcomes. One is that the grassroots revolt and secure a leader who represents conservative values. The other is that the Party collapses completely as the grassroots – the very people who secure victory at elections flee this sinking ship.
To read John Longworth’s piece for The Telegraph in full, click here.