The Secret Tory Candidate: Reform has tapped into something that Rishi hasn’t taken seriously

The Secret Tory Candidate
'Things are very, very bleak'

While the rest of us were watching in horror as three separate polls spelled out disaster for the party, on Wednesday afternoon Angela Richardson, the Conservative Party’s deputy chairman, tried to persuade us that there was nothing to worry about.

“The polls are wrong”, she posted in the Conservative MPs’ WhatsApp group, alongside a smiling selfie with activists in Guildford, Surrey, which she is hoping to retain, but, in truth, will be lucky to hang onto come July 4. Various supporters of Rishi reacted with blue hearts.

They are deluded. I now think we will be lucky to end up with 100 seats. Our best hope is if traditional Conservative voters return to us at the last minute because they are concerned about Labour winning a gigantic majority.

One lady came up to me while I was delivering leaflets on a housing estate and said she was very worried about Starmer. But I’ve also had people I’ve met a few times before, who like me personally, say they are going to vote Reform.

Reform has tapped into something, which in some ways shouldn’t be surprising. All over the world, particularly in Europe, this sort of thing has been happening and if parties on the centre-Right don’t seize the zeitgeist, they fall. Specifically, the issues around immigration are of monumental significance to millions in this country – particularly 2019 Conservative voters – and the reality is that Rishi has not taken that anywhere near seriously enough. A lot of people in senior positions in the Conservative Party also don’t get that.

What was David Cameron thinking, using a newspaper interview last weekend to go after Nigel Farage? I’m sure he thought he was being helpful, but he sees politics through the prism of the 2010 and 2015 elections. I don’t think he understands how things have fundamentally changed since then.

It is utterly depressing to have the rug pulled from underneath us during an election campaign with interventions like that from detached individuals who have got no comprehension for what is happening in British politics at the moment.

The stories about senior figures in the party betting on the election date are also incredibly bad for us, and it seems crazy that the people involved haven’t been suspended.

But, as a party, we have made repeated promises over a decade that we would significantly cut legal migration, and we haven’t done that. We saw the Prime Minister say he would do whatever it takes to stop the small boats. He hasn’t done whatever it takes. People don’t like broken promises.

In some ways it may be that something like this needs to happen for our party to wake up.

But, remarkably, there are a number of Conservative candidates who are still of the view that we shouldn’t talk about immigration. Some of them have been having a go at those of us who have spoken out about immigration, suggesting that we’re to blame for the party’s problems because we’ve been inflating the issue and therefore helping Reform.

In one recent case in the last few days, a candidate expressed that view on the MPs’ WhatsApp group and was then roundly attacked by another colleague. It then petered out, I think because people realised it might leak.

Things are very, very bleak. In my constituency we’ve got people who have never voted before who are planning to back Reform. And in Rishi Sunak we’ve got a leader who is simply ill-suited to deal with the populist threat on the Right. Character-wise, he’s the worst type of leader we could have at this moment.

On Thursday night, I watched the BBC Question Time debate and, to be fair, he came across better than I expected. Finally some passion and fight. It’s such a shame he hasn’t displayed it more often. I fear it’s likely too little, too late.

Could this election be an extinction-level event for the Conservative Party? I don’t know. But there is something significant happening in this country.