‘For what is the Tory Party unless it represents national feeling? If it does not represent national feeling, Toryism is nothing’.
Benjamin Disraeli’s words, uttered in his 1867 Mansion House speech, coincided with the passing of the Conservative government’s Reform Act. The Act expanded male franchise by almost 90%, abolished the unduly influential ‘rotten boroughs’, and created new constituencies for fifteen previously unrepresented towns across Britain.
This was not only a consequential constitutional change, nor a quest for greater democratic control of Britain’s governance, but one example among many where Conservatives responded to national feeling in moments of great need.
Fast forward 151 years and such circumstances are strikingly similar. The United Kingdom, in its undertaking of significant constitutional change in the pursuit of its patrimonial sovereignty and democratic control, pleads for the Conservative Party to exercise its Disraelian legacy in representing national feeling. Today, that feeling manifests itself in the very profound sense of loss and betrayal that Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union faces the very real prospect of failing to secure control over our laws, our borders and our money.
The dreadful pitfalls of the Chequers Plan, in its commitment to membership of the single market for goods, its rewording of existing freedom of movement rules, and the continued role of the European Court of Justice, is simply an unacceptable settlement, and are certainly not a favourable set of arrangements to maximise the opportunities that lie beyond the continent of Europe.
While many will argue that Chequers is dead, there are some who continue to persist that it is the only route to secure a successful British departure from the European Union. This is categorically untrue, and simply knowing that there are alternatives, is on its own, not enough to convince those still devoted to Chequers to change course.
It is therefore a duty upon Conservative party members, and activists to protest and petition for a change in policy. The national feeling that Disraeli spoke of is inconsistent with the current approach taken towards Brexit. Unquestionably, any withdrawal from the European Union must take back control for the UK, but it can only be achieved if Conservatives themselves take control of the direction by which the Conservative Party proceeds.
Only a little over a year ago, Conservative MPs were elected on a manifesto that promised an exit from the single market and customs union, an end to freedom of movement, with a repatriation of powers over our laws away from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It appears they must be reminded of what they promised to the electorate that returned them to Westminster.
Now is the opportunity that Conservatives rekindle the purpose to represent the national feeling. It is the moment that Conservatives speak for the nation.