David Davis writes in the Mail on Sunday about the ‘yawning gap between Britain’s political leadership and the people they serve’
As published in the Daily Mail:
We’re aloof and out of touch, says senior Tory MP David Davis, who warns: ‘Stay that way, and we’ll lose election’
On Tuesday I walked the streets of Rochester trying to persuade Ukip voters to vote Conservative. As I did so, in the Commons the Government was suffering a defeat on pub regulation, as publicans won the right to buy beers from somebody other than the owner of their pub chain. It was a victory for private enterprise over big business. The Government was seen to be on the side of big business.
Only the week before, it effectively denied the house a proper debate on the critical European Arrest Warrant. The voters of Rochester would have said, ‘I told you so’. They would see these incidents as part and parcel of the problem with modern politics, that the leadership of all the main parties are aloof, out of touch and have little interest in ordinary people. Emily Thornberry’s tactless tweet characterised all too clearly what an ever growing part of the electorate see as the Westminster elite’s scornful view.
The Rochester result is not some bolt out of the blue. It is the inevitable result of the most dramatic shift in voter behaviour in our lifetimes. As it stands, 44 per cent of voters will back a different party at the General Election than in 2010. The biggest migrants are Conservatives joining Ukip, and Liberal Democrats joining Labour. But all parties are losing significant support to ‘don’t know’.
As a result, the Conservatives and Labour can no longer command even two-thirds of the electorate’s support. The sense of rejection of the establishment was put best by the victim of Emily Thornberry’s tweet when he said, ‘I’ve not voted and I’m not going to. No matter who you have in, it doesn’t matter.’
This sense of disenfranchisement hurts all of us, but as the party in power it hurts us most of all. This is why on the best polls available in the Conservatives’ marginal seats, those commissioned by Lord Ashcroft, we seem set to lose a disastrous proportion.
After Tony Blair stood down in 2007 there was a public desire for clarity, coherence and principle after years of spin. We were unable to harness it in 2010. I believe it is not too late to tap into that mood now. In the six months leading up to the General Election, we are free of the shackles of the Coalition. What we say and do are more about what happens after the Election than before. That means we should be able to address the issues of Europe, immigration, welfare and taxation with more clarity than has been the case in the last four years.
But in the end the public are not just making a judgement on policy. They are also making a judgment on character. They want to believe that their leaders understand their problems, care about their problems, and have the courage, strength and clarity of purpose to do something about them.
This is the yawning gap between Britain’s political leadership and the people they serve that has to be closed. If we can do that, we will win the next Election. If not, no amount of incompetence on the part of Labour will save us from yet another defeat.