Ann Widdecombe: The Epitome of Today’s Conservative?

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Ann Widdecombe: The Epitome of Today’s Conservative?

Joel Casement asks whether Ann Widdecombe epitomises the Conservative voter of today: dissatisfied, dissenting and disenfranchised.

The rise of the Brexit Party in only a few weeks has been a revelation, as startling to the British public, as it has been damaging to the Establishment. Nigel Farage, the political force within the Brexit Party has meant support for conventional parties, such as the Conservatives, has waned. As the European Parliamentary Elections approach, does Ann Widdecombe epitomise the Conservative voter of today – dissatisfied, dissenting and disenfranchised?

Few could have missed Widdecombe’s re-emergence on the political scene. After 23 years as an MP serving her constituents, to her appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, Widdecombe has now elected to stand for the Brexit Party in the South-West in the European Parliamentary Elections. In standing, she says she intends to “fire a very loud warning shot across the bows” of the conventional parties who she believes have failed the British people. Like many of us, she is fed up with politicians promising, but not delivering, Brexit.

It is over 1,000 days since the EU Referendum and on any one of those days we could have left with No Deal on World Trade Organisation (WTO) Terms. Control, sovereignty and independence would have immediately returned to the UK and our global trade strategy could have been launched. However, we have not yet left the EU, and will not do so for the foreseeable future. This is too much for Ann Widdecombe and many of the Great British Public.

The Conservative Party has become all too familiar with members and Conservative MPs leaving the Party. The creation of the ‘The Independent Group’ (TIG) – now Change UK – saw the departure of Conservative Remain MPs Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston to the TIGs. The Brexit delay until October 31st at least, means the UK’s participation in the European Parliamentary Elections is now set in stone on May 23rd

The significant Brexit delay nearly triggered a rule change within the Conservative Party, intended to oust Theresa May from power. May has been summoned to meet with the 1922 Committee again this Thursday – and on June 15th an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the Conservative Party will take place. Theresa May will face an historic vote of No Confidence – the first in 185 years – from grassroots supporters concerned with her ongoing leadership of the Party. She is widely expected to lose, and although the vote is non-binding, it will be very difficult for her to remain Leader after this. The EGM takes place after the visit of US President Donald Trump on June 3rd, so Theresa May can meet the President in what could be her last major engagement before resigning.

The Tories’ tempest has given way to a flood of Conservative support – and donations – passing to the Brexit Party, and the effect has been clear on all levels. Prominent Brexiteer and Chairman of the ERG, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, said he “doesn’t blame” Ann Widdecombe for leaving the Conservative Party and standing as a MEP for the Brexit Party. This is not surprising, given his sister, Annuziata Rees-Mogg, is also standing for the Brexit Party – and not the Conservative Party!

Tory members, supporters and sympathisers have all lost confidence in their Party, epitomised by their horrendous losses by in the recent local elections. Although no longer a Conservative MP, Widdecombe’s departure and quick dismissal as a Conservative Party member, is a harrowing representation of the Party today. After 55 years of serving her constituents, she was removed within hours. She is to many the embodiment of their dissatisfaction, and her loyalty to a Party which had promised to deliver on Brexit in their General Election Manifesto, was then usurped by Theresa May’s disastrous Withdrawal Agreement – and she was rewarded with expulsion.

The current Brexit Deal is wedded to Mrs May – for better or worse – until the Prime Minister is removed from office. May’s Deal ignores small and medium-sized British businesses and Britain’s desire to trade and prosper on a global scale. One example of Britain’s excellent potential is the 14% increase in the number of British technology start-ups in 2018, twice the level of the next European country, Germany. Business would be set free by No Deal, to trade on WTO Terms, with a global economy of 7.5 billion people, and worth $78 trillion. A Conservative Brexit should be a No Deal Brexit. 

We want to be free from the European Union in all its manifestations. We want to be a great nation, not limited by others or by needless regulation and process. Conservatives want to return to their main ethos, by being the Party of the people and of business. 

According to a recent YouGov poll, less than a third of Conservative voters see the Party as being pro-Brexit. In a separate poll, more than half of those who voted Conservative in the 2017 General Election intend to vote for the Brexit Party in these EU elections. This is exactly why senior Tories had said they did not want to contest the European Parliamentary elections. They look set to have a very poor showing, with the latest polls putting them in fifth place.

Tories will continue to dissent and defect unless a clean and clear Brexit is delivered. If it isn’t, many Tories are intent on not just crossing Party-lines, but a political point of no return. Ann Widdecombe epitomises the betrayed and ignored Conservative voters. The only way to bind the Conservative Party together is to Get Britain Out of the EU with a No Deal WTO-Terms Brexit. For this to happen, Theresa May must be replaced as Prime Minister by a proper Brexiteer. When she is replaced, the infighting will cease, the defections will halt and the Conservative Party can help to build a global Britain on the world stage for our future.

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    Joel Casement
    Joel Casement is a Research Executive at the cross-party, grassroots campaign Get Britain Out. Previously he graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science with a First Class Degree in History.
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