General election 2024

My future as a reality TV star

Magpies have long been thought to be birds of omen. I am not superstitious. Yet during the election campaign I could not help but notice single magpies all the time. Perhaps you only notice what you are looking for, as from the beginning of the campaign the polls were clear that I would lose North East Somerset and Hanham. I wrote to my boarding school children when the election was called to warn them of the impending defeat, but unfortunately they cannot read my handwriting. Throughout the campaign, the mood on the doorstep was excellent and the team full of beans. Many visitors came to help and I regularly had people

Letters: what Biden and Ronaldo have in common

True conservatism Sir: Douglas Murray claims that the Conservative party ‘will need to have some people who are actually right-wing’ (‘The Tories only have themselves to blame’, 6 July). Why? Its name isn’t ‘the right-wing party’. It has no foundational obligation to be right-wing for the sake of it. Rather its mission is to be conservative, and the people who now identify as ‘right-wing’ seem to have no interest in conserving anything, whether it’s our countryside, rivers, values, place on the international stage, parliamentary system, cultural institutions, national life expectancy, economic stability – or anything other than their own positions and status, which many have lost regardless. I’m sure many

The key to dealing with this election? Wine

An old friend phoned. Normally cheerful, he was fed up. One of his business partners was being more than usually incompetent. ‘I told him that I’d describe him as a halfwit, if I could find the half.’ We went on to discuss another couple of friends, both good men and true, who seem doomed to imminent parliamentary defenestration. By the end of lunch, we were thoroughly benign. I was persuaded I could endure a Labour government Then there was hunting: a passion. It survived for several years under the Blair government and it seemed clear Tony had no stomach for the ban, which was half-hearted. That witty and cynical fellow

How much does it cost to hold a general election?

Canada’s Reformation This general election has been likened to the Canadian general election of 1993, when the Conservative party collapsed from 169 seats (a majority) to just 2 as its vote was split by a new party called the Reform party of Canada. Did it prove to be an extinction event? Neither party prospered in the following two elections: in 1997 the Conservatives won 20 seats and Reform 60; in 2000 their respective totals were 12 and 66. In 2003, however, they merged, with Reform leader Stephen Harper becoming leader of the combined party, known as the Conservative party of Canada. It won 99 seats in 2004. In 2006 it

Our new MPs should read Cicero

It would make a pleasant change if every elected MP was to make it their ambition to be honestus, Latin for ‘honourable, moral, a person of integrity’. This brought a man high acclaim because by definition he would be useful, i.e. of benefit, to his country. So argued the statesman Cicero in his three-volume On Duties, composed over four frantic weeks in 44 bc, during the civil war and collapse of the Roman Republic after Julius Caesar’s assassination. In the first volume, Cicero identified the roots of moral integrity in man’s natural instincts and powers of reasoning. That turned him into a social being, while reason also instilled in him

Milkshake me!

Nine days of campaigning to go and I haven’t been milkshaked yet. I’ve hung out near McDonald’s in the hope – anything to get ten seconds on the evening news. It seems that in my constituency, the rank, sanctimonious, narcissistic and dim-witted monomaniacs of the new, kind and gentle left are somewhat thin on the ground. Nigel Farage copped a milkshake early on, and members of rival political parties and the BBC tried to pretend they were concerned. It didn’t work with theBBC because when the side-splitting but fabulously unfunny comedienne Jo Brand suggested it would be better to throw battery acid at Farage, she was not sacked or even

What British voters could learn from the Romans

When the forthcoming election result is announced, the triumphant party will presumably proclaim: ‘The British people have spoken!’ That will come as quite a surprise to the British people, because all they will have done is crossed a box approving a farrago of implausible policies or reforms in matters over which they have had no say whatsoever. The Roman plebeians were more hands-on. Early Roman history is a complete mish-mash, much clearly invented well after the event. But it might have gone something like this: kings ruled Rome from 753 bc to 509 bc; they were advised by a senate of select tribal members called ‘patricians’; an assembly was set

How to lose voters

During the 1983 general election, I campaigned every single day with great zeal and avidity. I knocked on quite literally thousands of doors enquiring of people if we, the Labour party, could count on their support on 9 June. I would start at 9 o’clock and finish 12 hours later, taking a break at about 7 p.m. because interrupting Coronation Street was considered a vote loser. The closest the party has to a geographical base are the poorer parts of our eastern seaboard I did all this with my hair spiked up in jagged tufts held in place by gallons of hairspray, and with a little bit of eyeliner and maybe

Portrait of the Week: Supermajorities, falling inflation and rammed cows

Home The electorate mulled over the words of Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary: ‘You don’t want to have somebody receive a supermajority.’ A question that lodged in the election campaign was put by Beth Rigby of Sky News to Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, asking whether he had meant it when he said his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, would make a great prime minister; he replied: ‘I was certain we would lose the 2019 election.’ A few days later, Sir Keir told a phone-in questioner that serving in a Corbyn administration ‘didn’t cross my mind because I didn’t think we would win’. He evaded questions on council tax, taxing pensions

Letters: the Tories’ fatal flaw

Major error Sir: Even as a former Tory voter, I acknowledge that the predicted scale of the Conservative electoral defeat would be a national tragedy. Starmer’s government needs to be kept in check by a robust opposition. There are many explanations for the Tory decline, but George Osborne’s Diary (15 June) gives some clues: his celebration of a ‘Middle England’ country fête having a tombola for Gaza rather than a worthy local cause, for instance. More tellingly, Osborne also celebrates John Major’s advice that the Conservatives ‘will never win while we remain in thrall to the hard right of our party’. The practical interpretation of this involves moving the Tories to

Matthew Parris

Would you want Nigel Farage to marry your daughter?

The opposite of attraction is repulsion. Political commentary gives too little attention to a party’s (or leader’s) capacity to repel. Attractiveness to some may itself inspire disgust in others, simultaneously lifting support yet imposing a ceiling upon how high. Here’s a quiz. Our last five elections have seen Labour and the Conservatives slugging it out for primacy, each election leaving one of them the loser. It is upon the losers that I wish to focus. Here, from those five results, are the raw (rounded) totals of votes cast, nationwide, for the loser in each case. I want you to guess which party leader lost which election, so I’ve ranked the

Lionel Shriver

Tory voters want to punish their party – and themselves

For progressive onlookers abroad, the Labour landslide now projected next month will seem a cheerful counterweight to the EU parliamentary elections’ lurch rightwards and will represent a huge, refreshing popular shift in Britain to the left. Yet according to at least one recent poll, this perception would be statistically mistaken. Add the Conservative and Reform support together, and on the ground the British left and right are neck and neck. But never mind the numbers. The notion that an historically extraordinary Labour majority would betoken a renewed British enthusiasm for socialism is off the beam. Where is the emotion in this election? What few passions July’s contest stirs fester almost

When was the first televised election debate?

TV clashes The concept of a televised election debate is often believed to have begun with the one held between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon before the 1960 US presidential election – an innovation not repeated until 1976. (The first televised election debate in the UK didn’t take place until the 2010 general election.) Yet its history can really be traced back to 4 November 1956 when, days before Americans were invited to choose between President Eisenhower and Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson II, the CBS News show Face the Nation held a half-hour debate between Eleanor Roosevelt, representing the Democrats, and Margaret Chase Smith, representing the Republicans. Remarkably, it

Portrait of the Week: Sunak’s downpour, national service and the ‘triple lock plus’

Home Parliament was dissolved, leaving no MPs until the general election on 4 July. With hours to go, Diane Abbott had the Labour whip restored to her, and Lucy Allan MP was suspended from the Conservative party for endorsing the Reform UK candidate for Telford. Among bills that were lost was one prohibiting the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 31 December 2008. Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, had provided an abiding memory by announcing the election standing in heavy rain in Downing Street and making a speech as though it weren’t raining. The Conservatives suddenly said that everyone should do a form of national service at the age of 18.

Douglas Murray

The right must unite

I mentioned here recently that to my mind Boris Johnson bears a fairish similarity to Dr Faustus, as Christopher Marlowe portrayed him: selling his soul only to then waste his time in futile and silly gestures. The Conservative party is one of the only political parties whose leader seems to rather dislike its own voters Perhaps I can now add Rishi Sunak as another possible stand-in for that role. As Sunak announced a general election in the drenching rain last week, I was forced to ask again: ‘What was the point of all this? What was the point of rising up the ladder, of knifing his predecessor, of working, campaigning

How to crack election jokes like a Greek

As the party of the lost and the party of the losers square up to each other, the next few weeks bid fair to raise tedium to an excruciating new level. Still, one can always rely on the c. 4,000 epigrams of the Greek Anthology (7th century bc – 6th century ad) to provide some light relief. ‘We arrived at Apelles’ for supper./ He’d stripped his garden bare./ It looked as if he was feeding his sheep,/ Instead of his friends gathered there,/ With radish and lettuce and chicory too,/ And leeks, mint and onions, and basil and rue./ And fearing we’d soon be presented/ with a nourishing helping of

The deluge: Rishi Sunak’s election gamble

‘Only a Conservative government, led by me, will not put our hard-earned economic stability at risk,’ said Rishi Sunak as he announced a general election on the steps of Downing Street in the pouring rain. Upon these words, the Labour anthem ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ boomed out from the street. The din made the rest of his speech nearly inaudible. His suit jacket went from wet to soaking. ‘It’s bizarre,’ said one former minister. ‘How are we supposed to trust No. 10’s judgment when no one in the group even knows what an umbrella is?’  Sunak’s gamble is that while he can’t get a hearing in government, he might