The Tories’ doomsday scenario is worse than they could’ve imagined

Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Ed Davey rides on the Tidal Wave at Thorpe Park
Liberal Democrat Party leader Sir Ed Davey rides on the Tidal Wave at Thorpe Park

It may already be the stuff of your nightmares: a quirk of our first-past-the-post electoral system could gift Labour a landslide majority based on fewer votes than Jeremy Corbyn got in 2017.

A low turnout and the increasingly down-the-middle split of the right-leaning vote between Reform and the Conservatives could see to that.

But if you think that this is as bad as it could get then think again. Picture this scene at the first Prime Minister’s Questions in July: Sir Keir Starmer gazes smugly at the massed ranks of his 400+ MPs and then stares across as the Leader of the Opposition rises to his feet in front of 80 MPs of his own.

And that person is his fellow knight of the realm, the human in teletubby form, Sir Ed Davey. A man who disagrees with Starmer about almost nothing and spent much of the campaign in a wet suit.

Stuck below the gangway on the opposition benches are 60 bedraggled surviving Tories and a handful of Reform MPs, including one household name sporting a particularly wolfish grin. If you are Starmer then you already know that parliamentary procedures will mean they will struggle to get a look in at all.

In the Commons, it is the Leader of the Opposition who gets to tackle the PM on all the big set piece debates and who determines how the arguments are framed.

This means the next five years could see Starmer under pressure for not re-entangling us in the European Union faster; not spreading the tentacles of Woke further across the public and private realms; not redistributing even more income from those who work for it to those who don’t; not making the criminal justice system even softer and more orientated towards soothing the egos of offenders; not allowing stratospheric immigration levels to soar even higher.

This double-disaster scenario is still not quite the most likely outcome of the election, but it is becoming a growing possibility with every day that passes with the right becoming more evenly split. Yesterday’s YouGov poll showing the Tories on 18 per cent, Reform on 17 per cent and the Lib Dems bouncing up four points to 15 per cent could easily deliver it were it to come to pass on July 4.

Anti-Tory tactical voting could well see the Lib Dems turn a 15 per cent overall share into nearly 100 seats as their vote concentrates where it needs to in Blue Wall, hitherto Conservative-held seats. Meanwhile, there is no hint of tactical voting on the right. Quite the opposite as huge phalanxes of once stout Tory voters prepare with a quiet relish to do in their sitting MPs by backing Reform.

At this stage in the proceedings, the only thing that will guarantee that the official opposition comes from right of centre is if the right-wing vote breaks decisively in favour of one of its parties. Conventionally that would be via the Tories finally getting enough momentum together to mount a squeeze on the Reform vote. But circumstances are so extraordinary right now that perhaps it is as likely to come via Reform surging up even higher and the Tory vote just ebbing away.

Certainly since the return of Nigel Farage to the fray there has been no sign of Reform falling back. Rather it has been the Tories achieving the apparently impossible by taking their unprecedentedly low poll shares on average lower still.

Those on the Right need to vote smart on July 4. Tory-held seats with majorities right up to 20,000 are now in play for Labour and the Lib Dems according to the polling guru Frank Luntz. Right-wing voters in such places would be well advised to consider whether their constituency MP has stood up for conservative values sufficiently to merit being spared. If so, then coalesce behind him or her. If not then coalesce behind Reform. But please, talk to each other. And whatever you do, don’t split down the middle.