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April 24, 2017updated 25 Apr 2017 9:31am

Polls aside, the Tories mustn’t rest on their laurels

By William Cash

Theresa May’s lead in the polls poses a danger – but let’s not lose sight of the fact that her vision will lead us to a better, more buccaneering Britain, writes William Cash

Should Theresa May and the Tory election team high command be concerned about the scale of the lead in the opinion polls? At the weekend the Sunday Mirror has put the Tories on a 50 per cent landslide, while YouGov for the Sunday Times estimate they will win 48 per cent of the vote.

Yes is the answer. With such polls saying the Conservative party could win as much as half the UK electoral vote, some commentators are saying that this large runaway lead may have a negative effect on Tory turnout. There are mutterings that Conservative voters will look at such polls and convince themselves that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party is such a hopeless cause that they don’t need to bother voting.

But this diagnosis also misses an even more crucial point: the imminent death of Ukip which is currently on life-support. The Tories need to strategically deal with this problem as it was Ukip that helped them win several critically important seats in 2015, especially in the Midlands where the real election battleground will be on June 8.

Back in 2015, before the triggering of Article 50 looked like a political day dream, Ukip sucked away large swathes of Labour votes in the Midlands/North and allowed the Tories to achieve their small overall majority.

Without Ukip as a serious contender in the race, it will be so much harder for the Conservatives to retain these working class Midlands and Northern Labour working class votes on June 8.

Thus Labour may well do better than expected as many working class voters in the Midlands/North may have been happy to vote for Ukip but will not vote for a Tory like the vicar’s daughter May. Labour comfortably clung onto Stoke Central earlier this year. Or they might switch to the Liberal Democrats who will collect Remain protest votes from many Labour voters who can’t bring themselves to vote either Tory or for the hard left muppet Corbyn.

As a result, May will not want her lead in the opinion polls to get any larger. Ideally, it should shrink, although this looks unlikely now after Corbyn’s ‘car crash’ interview with Andrew Marr in which he insinuated that the UK should not bomb Isis, should abandon Trident and withdraw our troops from Nato.

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The way to a landslide victory for May on June 8 is to play a tough activist ‘ground game’ knocking on doors, pounding pavements and doing what the Tories do best: getting Tory voters out, come hail, rain or storms. The Conservative party has by far the best funded and best organised party activist member network across the country. They need to ensure a high Tory turn out regardless of the polls. May also needs to mercilessly exploit the lack of funding and leadership in the Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip.

The Conservative party machine has always been less sentimental than other parties’ when it comes to scenting victory and going in for the election kill. Historically, the Tory party has always done this with ruthless precision. That’s why Michael Dodds made Francis Urquhart Chief Tory whip in House of Cards. I’ve recently been reading Alan Clark’s excellent history of the modern Tory party, The Tories: Conservatives and the Nation State 1922-1997. He makes the point, which I think is correct, that the purpose of the Conservative party has always been to get into power and, when there, to stay in power.

‘Too often, under the stress of crisis or with the excuse of immediacy, the party may be thought to have turned aside from its real duty – the nurturing, protection and advancement of the British nation state. A tacit article of faith among serious Conservative politicians being this: that the interests of the British nation state are best served by contriving the perpetuity of a Tory administration whatever apparent sacrifices or principle or policy this may entail.’

Which is why I so enjoyed the weekend comments by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt (my favourite EU Mr Angry Muppet), that May calling an election to receive a stronger democratic mandate to negotiate with the EU was a ‘power grab’ motivated by ‘opportunism’. Hilarious. Of course May’s chess move was ruthlessly opportunistic.

That is exactly what politics is about. Expediency, execution and remaining in, or taking power. Doubtless Marine Le Pen’s result on Sunday, putting her into the final round on May 7 to be the next French president, is ‘opportunism’ according to the ludicrous Mr Verhofstadt, a  former Belgian prime minister, who believes – like other members of the EU nomenclature – that the very concept of the ‘nation state’ is meaningless.

That he is quite wrong, of course, is precisely why Le Pen is now in a face-off with centrist ex-banker (but in reality a closet socialist) Emmanuel Macron. The political Establishment of France has been overturned by the result which sees the traditional left/right parties all but decimated and France given a choice between a far right candidate (Le Pen) with a paradoxically socialist agenda, and an unproven banker who has never stood for any election and started his own party from nowhere.

Le Pen’s 21.53 per cent of the vote may not be quite as high as many of the EU leaders would have feared but the issue of nation states is not going away, even if Le Pen doesn’t become the next president of France. What is certain is that May is going to make the bringing together of the British nation state – a diverse Britain with equal opportunities for all – a central message of her manifesto.

After talking with a number of senior Tories, I predict May’s manifesto will set out the following agenda under a ‘one nation’ bring-the-country together post-Brexit policy:

A seven day NHS; upholding our commitment to foreign aid and the National Living Wage; doubling free childcare; dealing with the crisis of Britain’s ageing population and caring responsibly for the elderly; increasing the state pension; introducing grammar school and delivering a good school place for every child and reform of the House of Lords.

I also hope the manifesto gives VAT (especially restoring the VAT redemption on listed building repairs that was abolished by George Osborne in 2012) and Visa breaks for the UK’s heritage and tourism industry – the UK’s fifth biggest economic sector. For a sector the same size as the UK’s  car industry, and so reliant on many seasonal European workers, I would like to see the hotel and hospitality sector get tax breaks, just as British farmers will.  I would also like to see the Heritage and Tourism sector given its own minister with Cabinet rank.

The reason I will be voting Tory – having joined the party for the first time again back in February since being a member of the Cambridge University Conservative Association in the late 1980s – is that I support May’s bold and dynamic vision for a global Britain that can trade with the world and is not a member of an outdated, backward looking and sclerotic customs union.

In the 2015 election, my own racing colours were purple and gold. I am now very much back as a true blue supporter of a Conservative party leader who understands that the only way to ensure that London remains the global financial capital of the world is for our elected politicians, rather than the EU’s unelected politicians, to make our own sovereign laws . We need to be a country that looks outwards and trades with the world as we have done since we began as a great trading nation in the 16th century. Under May, we can become British buccaneers again.

William Cash is editor-in-chief of Spear’s

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