Can the Tory Party survive this bloody, self-induced civil war?

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Has any British political party in history been so involved in an orgy of self-mutilation as the Conservatives are over the vicious EU referendum campaign?

I am sure there is no precedent for this. Some of the insults and mud flying around between people who are supposed to be close political allies, whose object in life is to destroy socialism, have been startling, even shocking sometimes, in their savagery.

If these epithets had been uttered in the House of Commons, the Speaker, John Bercow, would have gone spare.

Can the Conservative Party survive this bloody, self-induced act of civil warfare? It is often said that the Conservative Party will survive any crisis. But this is something special – and the animosity will not disappear at the wave of a magician’s wand the moment the result of the referendum is announced.

The effects of the result – whichever way it goes – will be felt and argued over for months, if not years, after the event.

Some Tory grandees who have been at the forefront of this mud-slinging, could, in months to come, find themselves accused of damaging their own party so badly it may never be restored as an efficient political force.

The Labour Party is not in such turmoil, although it is not far behind. The leader Jeremy Corbyn has surprisingly admitted that a goodly number of Labour MPs would like to see the back of him, while the shadow chancellor John McDonnell is said to covet the leadership and could strike at any moment. He is a far stronger, more eloquent political performer than Corbyn and has amassed a back-up team of such size and strength it is giving the Corbynites the jitters.

McDonnell has denied all these claims, saying almost poetically that Jeremy is his closest political friend. “What do I have to do, have a civil partnership with him?”

Meanwhile, Labour’s official campaign to remain in the EU has been feeble. The leaders do not seem to realise the extent of feeling about migrants among thousands of typical Labour voters: more housing problems, fewer jobs, and lower wages for jobs that are available.

The Brexiteers are probably right in predicting that many normally hardcore Labour voters will defy their leadership on June 23. These are the nitty-gritty issues faced by individuals rather than the high-blown language about “democracy and workers rights” with which they are being assailed.

The trouble is that some “moronic” (their word, not mine) Labour centrists handed over the party to the hardline left wing. And like barnacles, they won’t budge. I don’t blame them.

Wonders will never cease! That old battling pair Tony Blair and Sir John Major are sharing a platform over the EU referendum.

Once, when he was Prime Minister, Major denounced Blair in the Commons as a “dimwit”, an epithet he was forced to withdraw. But now these two old war horses appear to have buried their differences and to have kissed and made up.

It is reminiscent of David Cameron’s response when asked what his favourite political joke was. He replied simply: Nick Clegg.

Within weeks, the two had to work cheek by jowl together in the Coalition government.

The sooner the referendum is over the better – before it starts addling people’s brains.

A colleague in the office remarked the other day: “I am just popping out for some Brexit.” Then, he added: “That wasn’t supposed to be a joke. I just can’t get the ruddy word out of my head.”

He meant breakfast, of course.