Nick, I think it's wrong to characterise traditional Tories a being in high income brackets - who consequently want low taxes to protect those incomes. There are many people who, for one reason or another, never earn particularly high salaries, let alone lucrative pensions - and consequently acquire/inherit assiduous savings and self reliance philosophies. Whether they are still working or retired, they tend to place a high value on prudent and pragmatic economic stewardship - either to protect their savings or just to keep their heads above water - and the rising tides of inflation and depreciation. Needless to say, the very last thing they need is Corbynism, closely followed by Johnsonian chaos and Truss derangement.

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The Tories don't need to convince half the country of anything - they only need to win over, or keep, the third who respond to their dog-whistles to get a majority under FPTP. We have to be careful about saying that Labour has a big percentage lead and then translate that into seats - the opposition can pile up up huge majorities say 40% of the seats and then Tories can win 60% of the seats by one vote. Agreed Sunak is not a convincing culture warrior but there are enough culturally illiberal voters out there that that may not matter as much as we might wish that it did.

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Hi Nick, and thank you forvanother excellent piece.

I now think the problem for the Conservatives is that they've hollowed-out their Party and its supporting organisations to the extent that a relatively inexperienced MP like Sumak is in fact their best option. Having destroyed their broad church, have they backed themselves into a corner?

My only reservation is whether their control of electoral processes (although I doubt voter ID will have much impact) and the overwhelmingly skewed media landscape will enable them to get another undeserved win.

Will the Conservative "air game" outweighs the "ground game" where they're now unlikely to compete?

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I can't overemphasize how much your description of the apparant Tory strategy is an exact match of the US Republican party strategy since the mid-90's. The US Constitution is heavily weighted in favor of low-population (slave) states, and Republicans have leveraged that plus a scorched earth culture war to a nearly even division of power, despite getting a clear minority of the available votes (about 1/3 of eligible voters abstain). Whether the Torys can engineer an equivalent gaming of the British system remains to be seen, but without that piece a strategy based on division is at best a short term patch.

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Mar 16·edited Mar 16

Nick, it's immaterial whether Sunak is "worse" than his predecessors. More and more, politics is about cultural divides as well as traditional bread and butter stuff. In my case, I've mainly voted Tory since 1983 because as a small business owner, the Tories promised, and mainly succeeded at, keeping my tax bill down, and more often than not being the "law and order" ticket, and strong on migration.

Well, that was the pre-1997 Tory ethos.

Since Blair, nothing is the same. 12-13 years of Tory misrule has led to my taxes rocketing, crime off the graph, migration policy a total failure. And in concert with this, allowing the Blair "beauracratisation" era to become irreversible throughout British institutions. Indeed I believe Blair will be shown to have had the bigger long term influence on British society than Thatcher.

Is Sunak going to be able to prolong the agony and drag the Conservative death rattle into a tiny majority in 2024? Or will he represent the expiration, maybe permanent, of the whole Tory "brand"?

Sunak is pinning his hopes in a mix of technocratic competence economically and culture warrior socially. A mix of Macron and Le Pen lol.

This is what I'd say to you, Nick. I think my mindset represents a big swathe of Middle England Tory voters, and maybe even some Labour voter attitudes.

There is no love for the Illegal Migration Act, Rwanda policy etc etc. We're not a racist nation. We believe in a fair policy for refugees. We understand the Home Office and asylum granting proceedures are not fit for purpose. We know Sunak will breach the ECHR, has only 2500 spaces in detention, has no third countries to return detainees to. For the latter, the Tories take all the blame.

But, when it comes to light that the general opposition to the Tory policy has nothing to say about the thousands of Albanian men coming here by boat, ie individuals from a country not at war, a NATO member, applying for EU membership, it's hard to not conclude the criticism of the opposition as "pro open borders" is correct.

When we're aware that in the early 2000s, Italy pushed Albanians back, and Greece even now has harsh policies, and the EU itself polices it's borders by paying Libyan warlords blood money to stop flows from N. Africa, it's quite something to call Sunak and the UK govt racist and Nazi adjacent as some prominent public figures have done so recently.

My anger is both with the liberal intelligentsia who have nothing to say on areas like Albanian numbers (and now, growing numbers of non-Hindu Indians), and the Tories are bluffing on an empty hand (no detention spaces, woefully slow Home Office, no third countries, fight they cannot win with ECHR).

All while, the silent majority want a humane refugees policy, professionally administered, and no truck with anything approaching the open borders ethos that I see more and more in discussion from the liberal left.

If Sunak can square the circle of deportations in significant numbers, and Labour oppose, we'll see how this plays out at the next election.

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