Dr Rosalind Beck is a Doctor of Criminology and a Conservative Party member in South Wales.
One hears on a daily basis now how people who have voted Conservative their whole lives will ‘never vote Conservative again.’ In addition, 40 per cent of Tory councillors and 60 per cent of Tory activists say they will vote for the Brexit Party. It doesn’t take a great leap to imagine Conservative MPs – especially members of the ERG – being the next ones to jump ship.
In this context, Nigel Farage’s prediction of a realignment of British politics does not seem that far-fetched; as reported on this site, the party is estimated to have already lost seven per cent of its voters to the Brexit Party – voters which, Paul Goodman has suggested, may have been permanently lost.
In terms of analysing the causes of this haemorrhaging of support away from the Conservatives, also evinced in the local elections, it would however be a mistake to point purely to Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. There are other ways in which the Conservative Party has been seriously displeasing its support base for several years now, notably by its cavalier and even hostile attitude towards business.
The Cameron and Osborne administration was especially antipathetic towards business, and May and Hammond have, with the policy on energy caps, acted in a way more befitting a socialist state; price controls were complete anathema to the Conservatives only a couple of years ago, so why are they now acceptable?
It is, of course, the Government’s specific panic over not getting younger voters onside that has led it to stray into Labour territory, where it does not belong. As Philip Booth has argued, May’s approach has been to blindly pursue votes, following Labour’s lurch to the left and abandoning conservative values. Jeremy Corbyn has dragged the Tories to the Left, and the ‘just about managing’ are the losers
It is hardly unsurprising that many voters who describe themselves as being in business find Farage’s new party more appealing than the Conservative Party, especially as, despite it not yet having formulated its domestic policy, all the indications are that it will at the very least be a pro-business, pro-free market party. Many of the seven per cent or so of voters lost so far are likely to have switched allegiance because of this.
I have seen this shift in voting intentions in my own arena of the private rented sector. May has now personally announced a decision to take away landlords’ rights over their own private property by abolishing ‘Section 21’ notices. This effectively grants tenants indefinite tenancies; an incredible attack on private property rights, which would also make rental contracts completely one-sided, as Kristian Niemitz has rightly pointed out.
Tampering with basic principles in this way by not allowing landlords the ultimate say over their own assets and putting control in the hands of strangers (aka tenants) sets a dangerous precedent. What next will be ‘seized’ from the control of its owner? Ryan Bourne has described what it means in practical terms, stating: “The results of this policy are therefore obvious to anyone who understands basic economics. First, landlords will be far less likely to rent to tenants they consider high-risk. The incentive to engage in serious vetting, demanding extensive guarantees from tenants, will skyrocket.”
What’s more, as the majority of landlords only own one rental property, many will decide it is just not worth the risk. This could decimate the private rented sector at a point when more rental housing is desperately needed. Former Treasury adviser, Stian Westlake, has referred to this as an example of where ‘the paucity of Tory economic thinking’ leads.
I would go further and say it is not only paucity of thinking, but an ill-considered ‘one size fits all’ knee-jerk response to a ‘problem’ that hasn’t even been evidenced. In the broader context, it also represents a reversal of the Conservative Party’s traditional respect for property rights; recognised as a key foundation underpinning democracies.
As Corbyn will always go a step further, the Conservatives will gain nothing but have much to lose – notably the votes of two million landlords. The families of disenchanted breadwinners will also await instruction on whom they should vote for. Spouses, elderly parents and adult children will vote for the party which protects and doesn’t undermine the main earner’s business and income.
This will be the case for any individuals or groups who believe the Conservative Party are attacking their livelihoods. So it is not only Brexit which is affecting the Conservatives’ dwindling fortunes. Its anti-business, anti-private property trajectory is doing just as much damage. If it continues on this path, this could be the end of the line for it as a party capable of ever winning a majority again.