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The decline of the Liberals and the rise of the Labour Party seems so long ago that the mantra that, under First Past the Post, only Labour or Tories can win has assumed the status of Holy Writ.

Hence, we hear the repeated but inaccurate claim that a vote for Reform UK is a vote for Starmer. If political patterns really were so entrenched, we would still have the Whigs.

Starmer is going to win anyway but with the Tories and Reform now neck and neck in the polls it is equally possible to claim that a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for Labour.

“Something is happening” said both Tice and Farage at a recent press conference.

Yes, there is a stirring, so to speak, in the undergrowth, a susurration of discontent, of disillusionment, of a wish for change.

If that wish becomes a will then the face of British politics may be about to change dramatically for the first time in a century.

If the Tory party is reduced to a rump in parliament, then those who have survived will have to decide which way to turn.

They can either carry on as they are now, which is what Jeremy Hunt seemed to suggest in a recent statement, when he said that elections are always won from the centre ground or there can be a realignment of the centre right with Reform and the remaining conservatives in some sort of agreement.

How have we got to this point? In many ways Reform is Boris Johnson's legacy. The Brexit party stood down in all the Conservative seats in the 2019 election.

Farage also offered a pact, whereby we would stand down in all the marginals as well if in return the Tories would give us their 10 least winnable seats, that is to say solid Labour fiefdoms which the Conservatives never had any hope of taking.

Boris refused and dismissed the Brexit party as irrelevant. He then ratted on all his promises and made a severe hash of “getting Brexit done”, betraying Northern Ireland in the process to the great glee of the EU.

Far from acknowledging the role that the Brexit party had played in his massive election victory, he arrogantly assumed that he need bother with that party no more. The result was the steady growth of Reform UK as people sought for policies and solutions which they had been promised by the Conservatives, who then delivered the exact opposite.


'Britain is right to expand its defence spending- we have to prepare for the worst,' says Robert BucklandThere will be ramifications for Brexit if Labour get in and Tories will blame Farage - Daniel'Could Nigel Farage lead Reform to victory and save our jobs and inheritance? Why not'

The roots of the liquefaction of that once great party lie in the hopelessly inadequate quality of its MPs. Many were inexperienced but that was the least of the problem.

Prone to panic at the slightest sign of trouble in the polls and swollen-headed with the importance of being able to defenestrate Prime Ministers, what should have been a formidable army became a rebellious rabble.

That in turn goes back to a major change in the selection process for candidates which began under Theresa May, when she was chairman of candidates at Conservative Central Office, and continued through Cameron’s A list promoting Central Office cronies to the present day.

When constituencies were free to choose their own candidates without intervention from the centre the results were a great deal more reliable. Merit and not identity politics determined the outcome. The aim was laudable enough: to get more women and people from minorities into Parliament but the route chosen was positive discrimination which, over two decades, has eroded the overall quality

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