Gary Streeter is a former International Development Secretary, and is MP for South-West Devon.
We have to play it long. It should be the goal of Conservative MPs to take this parliament full term.
Long enough for the Prime Minister to recover her lost confidence and authority, which she is with every passing day
Long enough to get Brexit done and bedded in, as instructed by the British people
Long enough to burn off the Corbynista threat which has shallow roots, and may well wither in the long slog to 2022.
Long enough for new ideas to bubble up from within, so that our offer at the next election is fresh, exciting and attractive.
Long enough to settle on a new One Nation leader if Theresa May steps aside after Brexit, as I suspect she will want to do (unless her recovery goes exceedingly well – which it could.) Expect the unexpected.
Can we go long? All the parallels are with the 1992 to 97 Parliament, which started with a Conservative majority of 21 but, following lost by-elections and defections by 1995 when I got into the whip’s office, had been whittled down to three. We managed to last the full term and went to the country on the last possible day. I realise the outcome was then cataclysmic, but that was after 18 years of Tory rule – far too long in a sophisticated democracy – and we faced an attractive and moderate Blairite opposition. We are not in that position today, nor likely to be in 2022.
Can we go long? We have to want to do it. We have to discover a sense of esprit de corps that has been lacking in recent years. We must dust off the old virtue of loyalty to the team, and Associations should hold wayward MPs to account, as they always used to. We are a much younger team than in the early 1990s and we can hopefully expect fewer by-elections.
We will find the DUP reliable partners – they are not the problem! Some of our colleagues will be much flakier.
So here are four rules to ensure that we do survive to 2022 if that is what our new leader wants us to do.
- Resolve individually and corporately that going long is in the national and party interest
- Never, ever, vote for an opposition supply day motion, whatever its subject matter. I have never known a Labour MP to vote for one or ours when we were in opposition.
- Discuss potential rebellions on substantive amendments ad infinitum with ministers and whips before ever taking the nuclear option of voting against government policy, and then only then if it is absolutely necessary. Sort it out behind the scenes, not in public.
- Don’t die unless you have a majority of over 25,000.
We can do this and we can have some fun along the way. If I was asked would I rather be in our shoes or Labour’s – no contest. They have the greater long term problems.