The Secret Tory Candidate: It’s one rule for Rishi’s mates and another for the rest of us

The Secret Tory Candidate
The Secret Tory Candidate

I was having an evening off on Wednesday – a brief moment of relaxation over a gin and tonic – when the news popped up on my phone that Craig Williams, one of the PM’s closest aides, had placed a £100 bet on a July election shortly before it was announced by Rishi.

It’s hard to overstate the extreme anger that a lot of us fighting for our seats are feeling about this. Many of us are already doing everything in our power to bite our tongues and not go public with our views about how this campaign is being run.

This feels like exactly the kind of self-serving, arrogant, entitled behaviour that has already been incredibly damaging to the Conservative brand in recent years. The handing of plum seats to favoured sons like Richard Holden, the party chairman, was also an example of this.

In the case of Williams, it is as though the captain – Rishi – and his lieutenants have just driven the ship into an iceberg and the main preoccupation of his lieutenants is grasping stuff for themselves rather than showing any regard for others.

Rather than thinking, “the election is going to be called in July, what bearing is that going to have on the future of my supposed friends and colleagues”, he’s thinking, “can I make a quick buck out of it?”

Craig wasn’t just any MP. He was one of the PM’s closest aides – his parliamentary private secretary – which also makes Rishi’s failure to take any action against him all the more unforgivable. If it had been me or another candidate, ie someone who wasn’t one of Rishi’s mates, then we’d have been suspended. No doubt about it.

I saw Craig Williams being interviewed on the BBC last night and he was trying to brush this off. You can’t brush this off.

I’m worried about what these types of incidents are doing for morale among the grassroots.

I’m already having to get by with about a quarter of the number of volunteers who helped us campaign locally in 2019. Even a lot of people who are willing to deliver leaflets aren’t prepared to knock on doors and canvass because they can see the polls and the national atmosphere. As it happens, people we’ve spoken to on the doorstep are a lot politer than you might think.

But the amount of time I’m having to spend cajoling traditional Conservative voters to vote for us on July 4 is worrying. Sometimes it’s 15-minute conversations trying to get them off Reform. My pitch is to make it really clear to them that this is a vote for me – not Rishi. Sadly, what used to just be indifference and apathy towards him seems to have hardened. He has become a drag.

One couple I canvassed yesterday were pretty typical of older, skilled working-class voters in my constituency. They were previously Conservative voters but think Rishi is out of touch and doesn’t get the lives of ordinary people. They felt it was time to change and they wanted a Labour government. They quite like Keir Starmer.

In this case, they’d decided that a Labour government would get voted in regardless of what happens here, so they decided to vote for me because they like me locally and don’t think there’s any risk that they’ll help to elect us as a government nationally.

A lot of us are in utter despair now, particularly after the publication of an underwhelming manifesto. The risk of a super-majority Labour Party is grave but we’re walking into the abyss.

Tellingly, the Conservative MPs’ Whatsapp group is eerily quiet – hardly anyone is messaging in it. Yesterday Damian Green put a message out about canvassing. But no one replied.

There was just tumbleweed.

But that is hardly surprising. It feels like we’re being destroyed by poor political leadership and the behaviour of those around Rishi.