An imaginary Conservative MP speaks

One highlight over the Christmas period was a tweet from the Jeremy for Labour twitter account, which claimed: ‘A Tory MP tells us: “If Labour MPs rally behind Corbyn, we’d be in real trouble. We owe our survival to Blairites.”’

I suspect I’ve talked to more Conservative MPs than the people behind this account, and yet I’ve never heard anything like this. The same – judging from their reaction – would appear to be true of, to take just a few examples, one of the editors of the Conservative Home website or the political editor of the Sunday Times. They also talk to quite a few Conservative MPs, and yet do not appear to have heard many articulate this view.

Maybe this one Conservative MP normally observes omerta, but has blurted out their feelings to the (apparently anonymous) people behind this twitter account. It is, just about, possible – although if you are the sort of person who believes things like this, then I have a bridge to sell you.

For what it’s worth, based on my conversations with them, I see no evidence that Conservative MPs are scared by Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn, united or not. Bluntly, most can’t believe their luck. If there are fears, it is that some of the less tribal ones worry about the effect of having a weak opposition on the quality of politics. And there are some – again, the less tribal ones – who worry that a landslide Tory majority at the next election might not be good for the country either.

After Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, a few had a concern that, just somehow, in an era in which the unexpected seems possible, he might just ride an anti-establishment wave to Number 10, with what they feared would be disastrous consequences for the country – but electorally this was worth the risk, since the chance of it happening seemed so small.

I was saying most of this back in late-2015 and the only thing that has changed since then is that as Labour’s poll ratings have plummeted, so the fears of this last group have receded yet further.

Of course, some Conservative MPs will admit that if Labour could cohere around the Corbyn leadership, then the government might face a tougher time than it currently does. But a) they don’t think the sole reason that this is not happening is because of the ‘Blairites’ (if Mr Corbyn’s problems really were confined just to Blairites, things would be a lot easier…), and b) even if Labour somehow managed to unite, most Conservative MPs think the Corbyn project is intrinsically flawed. Life for the government might be tougher under such hypothetical circumstances, but most Conservative MPs don’t think they’d be in ‘real trouble’.

It is possible that these Conservative MPs are all wrong. MPs are often wrong about electoral matters; a majority thought Remain would win the referendum, for example. Anyway, presumably most people on the left think Conservative MPs are wrong about lots of other things, so it is not exactly clear why they want to pray them in aid here. Maybe they are going to get the shock of their lives come the general election. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, for those on the left wedded to the Corbyn project, it is surely more sensible to argue that they are wrong, rather than making up imaginary Conservative MPs.

Philip Cowley