Since not winning a majority earlier this month, the Prime Minister has lost her two co-Chiefs of Staff, and the head and deputy head of her Policy Unit. She has no Director of Communications. She has no Press Secretary. Lynton Crosby, Mark Textor, and Jim Messina, having joined her for the election campaign, have now left. They must bear a share of the responsibility for the failure during it of the Tory machine (read Gareth Baines, Hamish McFall and Michelle Lowe on this site), just as Nick Timothy, by his own admission, takes responsibility for his part in the voter-repelling calamity of the Conservative manifesto’s social care proposal. And the Party Chairman who helped lead the most disastrous campaign in the Party’s post-war history is now back at CCHQ.
Exactly a year on from the EU referendum, May could do a lot worse than send for the men and women who pulled off a victory – in other words, Vote Leave’s top team, who defeated the massed might of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, the CBI, the TUC, a mass of retired mandarins, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bob Geldof. The Prime Minister had to downplay, if not drop, her campaign message: Strong and Stable Leadership. Vote Leave stuck to its one: Take Back Control. She had no retail offer. As we pointed out during the campaign, “retail offers can be very effective – a point proven only last summer. £350 million a week for the NHS!” (A commitment that cannot be said to bind May, who supported Remain, but which Boris Johnson, who fronted Vote Leave’s campaign, will have no alternative but to honour if he becomes Prime Minister during this Parliament.)
A member of that top team is already in Downing Street: Stephen Parkinson, her Political Secretary, who led Vote Leave’s ground operation. Paul Stephenson, its Communications Director, is in business. Matthew Elliott, its Chief Executive, is Editor-at-Large at Brexit Central and contributing to Legatum. Dominic Cummings is tweeting about quantum theory and reading Thucydides. Oh, and he has blogged about “the Tory train wreck”. There are others too numerous to name – they also serve who only stand unrecognised – some of whom pop up in Tim Shipman’s All Out War. Lee Rotherham and William Norton, who contributed to our series on WTO, were also on board. Some of these will be unavailable and all are busy. But all signed up with Vote Leave out of a sense of public duty, and the flame will still burn bright.
The party leadership needs an audit of what went wrong this month, and a plan for the Tory future in this Parliament. ConservativeHome has only found one Tory MP to date who says that May can lead the Party into the next election. But whatever happens next, she must preside for the moment over drawing up a strategy for the future. We’ve said it before and say it again: send for Cummings.