Voters must now face up to the reality of a Labour government

Rishi Sunak walks back into Number 10
Rishi Sunak walks back into Number 10

I recall my utter astonishment, sitting in the Foreign Office in 2017, at Theresa May’s disastrous decision to call an early election. In 2019, sitting in Downing Street, I had a small part in Boris Johnson’s electoral poker game and his subsequent rout of the anti-Brexit opposition in December. Now, in 2024, our repeal of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, that unhappy constitutional innovation brought in by our current Foreign Secretary, has put the power to call an election back in the Prime Minister’s hands. Today he lit the electoral touchpaper.

Good. A summer election might feel better than one in gloomy November. The economic news could easily get worse, not better. And anyway, when politics gets dominated by electoral timing, it’s time to have that election: the window to do anything substantive is gone.

Of course we can all see the opinion polls. I have been pointing out here for many months what they imply and what we should do to change them. Little has happened. So calling an election now is high risk.

But it also forces a real choice. Every voter must now truly consider whether they really want to give Keir Starmer and his “reformed” Labour Party a free hand for the next five years. You know for sure you will get higher taxes and more spending. You know for sure the bloated and creaking NHS will continue to fail us. The fantasy of renewables-only electricity will drive your bills up and our industry out. The trade unions will be back. And immigration, legal and illegal, will start spiralling up again.

Above all you know that all we have done to re-establish our national independence will be at risk. Labour will blame everything that goes wrong on Brexit. They want new deals on foreign policy and trade cooperation with the EU, just for starters. They will pay the necessary price, subordination to the EU’s court and institutions, because they don’t in their heart believe we are capable of running our own affairs. Before you know it we’ll be back in the customs union, back in the single market, running to Brussels in every crisis. And everything we have fought for together since the Brexit referendum will be in jeopardy.

I know many of you are frustrated – you, our past conservative voters, you who voted for us for the first time in 2019, you who want the different country we haven’t yet delivered. I know that many of you don’t fear Labour, or perhaps you think that, bad as they are, they can’t be worse than us. I have certainly heard from my conversations around the country since I resigned from the Cabinet in 2021 that many of you are utterly fed up and want to give us a kicking.

I don’t blame you. I share your frustrations. I wish we had done better. I’ve tried to get us to do better. But the moment of truth is now coming. We need you back. I want you to come back.

And the Party needs to help you come back. We can make it so much easier for you to rally to the colours if we give you something to rally around. Our manifesto is not yet written. I hope the leadership will use it to set out a proper conservative programme: get the tax burden back down; rethink net zero; look properly at what the NHS does with all the money it gets; build more houses where people want them; scrap the Equality Act; get more prisons and more powers to deal with crime; and above all cap legal immigration and get out of the ECHR if it becomes necessary to stop the boats.

I had hoped to be standing in this election myself. That’s now in the hands of the Party. We shall see. But what’s now in your hands, readers and voters, is the decision of the next six weeks. This election will decide something very important for all of us. It will decide whether we sink back into the torpor of being a quasi-province of Brussels, or, as I hope, that the fight is still on.

Friends, Conservatives, Brexiteers, we must now rouse ourselves. Don’t let Labour turn us back into a European satellite. Give us the strength to fight back. And help us get back on the right track.