The Evolution of a Party
The present official title of the party which Teresa May (aka “The Wicked Witch of Westminster“) currently leads, is “The Conservative & Unionist Party”. The origins of the party go back to a faction of the 18th Century Whigs who supported the younger William Pitt who was Prime Minister 1783-1801.
The use of the expression “Tory” began to be used from about 1812 to distinguish the grouping from the Whigs. The expression “Tory” was certainly much used in Victorian times – so much so that it was used in Gilbert & Sullivan’s 1882 libretto for Iolanthe in which the Fairy Queen says to Strephon: “In the Parliamentary hive, Liberal or Conservative – Whig or Tory – I don’t know – But into Parliament you shall go! “
The title of “Conservative” was officially adopted around 1834 when Sir Robert Peel was the Leader of the Party and it became the Conservative and Unionist Party around 1912. The aim of the Unionists was to preserve the Union of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland as a single political entity all governed from Westminster.
Of course, the Republic of Ireland left the Union after the First World War 1922-37 and nationalists in Scotland, Wales and to a lesser extent in Northern Ireland have achieved in differing degrees a measure of devolution from Westminster rule.
Skating on thin ice
Of the four nations in the UK, only England and Wales voted for Brexit. 52.5% of the voters of Wales voted to leave the EU as did a narrow majority of 53.4% in England.
The Welsh Assembly has the following membership: Labour 29, Plaid Cymru 12, Conservatives 11, UKIP 7 and Liberal Democrats 4. With only 12 seats in the Assembly, Plaid Cymru is a long way from having the sort of clout that the Scottish Nationalists have in Scotland.
Scotland is a very different problem. As of today, the Scottish Parliament has the following make-up: Scottish National Party 63, Scottish Conservatives: 31, Scottish Labour 23, Scottish Greens 6, and Scottish Liberal Democrats 5 and the Scottish National Party has 54 MP’s in the Westminster Parliament.
The SNP lost a Referendum to leave the Union in 2014: 55.3% Remain and 44.7% to leave. But in the EU Referendum all 32 Scottish Council Areas voted to Remain with a majority of 62% overall. A 2nd Referendum to leave the United Kingdom Union is very much on the cards.
See this in the Guardian: “Who will blink first, Theresa May or Nicola Sturgeon? – With neither prepared to back down over the possibility of a second Scottish referendum, it’s a high-stakes fight for both“.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has: Democratic Unionists 38, Sinn Fein 37, SDLP 12, UUP 10, Alliance 8 , Green 2, TUV 1 and People before Profit 1. Sinn Fein, of course seeks the unification of the Island of Ireland, while the DUP and UUP wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.
In the EU Referendum Northern Ireland voted to Remain with a majority of 55.8% overall. Membership of the EU makes for an open border with the Republic of Ireland and a majority of the inhabitants of the North do not wish the return of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
The Financial Times has this on the latest Northern Ireland Assembly elections: “Northern Ireland shows the risks of a hard Brexit – A surge in nationalist support overturns some old assumptions”.
The Belfast Telegraph has this: “Dublin ‘must seek special status for Northern Ireland within EU’ in Brexit talks“.
The Belfast Telegraph was first published in 1870 and scooped the Best UK Regional Newspaper award in 2012. Its political leaning has always been Unionist and it now favours the Democratic Unionist Party. It shows just how far the Peace Process in Northern Ireland has come when the Province’s leading pro-Unionist newspaper calls upon the Dublin Government to help Northern Ireland out of a mess created in Westminster by the Wicked Witch who is leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.
So of the 4 countries that make up the United Kingdom 2 do not support Brexit and in particular the”Hard Brexit” stance of the Wicked Witch.
The Scottish and Northern Irish people and their devolved administrations might just be persuaded to put up with a deal which involves remaining in the Customs Union and the Single Market including the principle of Free Movement, perhaps on EFTA terms.
Bur if the kind of “Hard Brexit” that the Wicked Witch seems to favour comes about, then that could well result in both Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK Union.
Perhaps the Wicked Witch should start thinking about a new title for the Conservatives. A party which takes the UK out of the European Union and by so doing puts the Union of the UK at risk really cannot continue to describe itself as “Unionist”.
Back in 2015 the New Statesman had this: “The shadow of the Nasty Party hangs over the Tories again“. It pointed out that is was the Wicked Witch herself who coined the description in 2002 when she warned: “There’s a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party.”
Perhaps those who support the idea of the UK leaving the EU can think of some new title for a party which is no longer Unionist, remains thoroughly nasty, and which cribs its policies from UKIP. Answers on a postcard please to the Conservative Party Chairman: Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP, 4 Matthew Street, Westminster, London SW1H 9HQ.
Parliamentary Ping Pong
With the consideration of the Budget, the House of Commons will not start to consider the Amendments to the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2016-17 until Monday 13th March 2017 and continuing as necessary on the two following days. No doubt the Government will seeks to persuade the Commons to reject the Lords Amendments.
It will be interesting to see (i) how many Conservative MP’s will follow the lead from the Lords and support the two very sensible amendments the Lords have proposed and (ii) how long the Lords will continue to support their amendments in the ping-pong process.
Common sense would dictate a compromise by the Government and acceptance of the two very sensible amendments. But the Wicked Witch is not that kind of person – as evidenced by her treatment of Lord Heseltine.
The Guardian has this: “European parliament Brexit chief: ‘Let Britons keep freedom of movement’ – Guy Verhofstadt says ‘all British citizens have EU citizenship’ and should maintain these individual rights if they wish to“.
Guy Verhofstadt is a Belgian Liberal who entered the Belgian House of Representatives in 1985. He has been successively the Budget Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Belgium. He became a Member of the European Parliament in 2009 and became in the same year the Leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He is the lead negotiator for the European Parliament in impending UK Brexit procedure.
The Guardian also has this: “We’ve been offered an olive branch on EU citizenship. Don’t let them swat it aside – Guy Verhofstadt’s idea that Britons continue to enjoy some rights in Europe was music to millions of ears. The government must respond to this goodwill in kind“. Well said Mr Verhofstadt and the Guardian – but one fears the the Wicked Witch and her gang of pro-Brexit terror clowns will not be persuaded.
O tempora! O mores!