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Conservative Party conference cancelled | The Independent



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The Conservatives have abandoned hopes of staging their party conference this year, axing the autumn event planned for Birmingham.

Boris Johnson’s party had tried to save its conference – even after Labour and the Liberal Democrats scrapped theirs because of coronavirus – but will now hold a “virtual” event.

“We know that many people will be disappointed,” party chairman Amanda Milling told members.

The delay in making the announcement had prompted suggestions that the prime minister wanted to send out a ‘business as usual’ message, by ploughing ahead.


But, last week, the government was forced to implement a local lockdown in nearby Leicester, because of a spike in infections, with other crackdowns widely expected.

In her letter, Ms Milling and co-chairman Ben Elliott said the conference – due to take place in Birmingham between 4 and 7 October – will now be held online.

While “some elements of the traditional party conference we all know and love” might go ahead, this would only happen “if allowed by government guidelines”.

The party’s “first priority is for the health and safety of members, delegates and attendees”, the letter stated.

“If guidelines allow we hope we can include some elements of the traditional Party Conference we all know and love. See you virtually in October!”, Ms Milling, the MP for Cannock Chase tweeted.

As well as providing a crucial opportunity to speak to the nation, the party conferences are also key money-spinning events for the parties, which will now be lost.

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LILLEY: Conservative leadership hopefuls poised to square off


Are you ready to watch the barnburner of the Conservative leadership debates this week?

Did you remember there is a Conservative leadership race on in the middle of the world melting?

Depending on how much French you speak or understand, you may want to give your ears a break on Wednesday night and skip round one. None of the leadership contenders are Francophone, none of them are naturals when it comes to speaking French, so getting by will be the order of the night.

Or you can be like me and watch to see if they hold the same positions in English as they do in French.

The leadership race was mostly put on hold during COVID-19 and is only now coming back to life. In order to vote, you had to buy a membership by May 15.

So, if you missed that date, you can enjoy the spectacle but the candidates aren’t speaking to you; they will be speaking to party members and the supporters of other candidates.

A friend posted an interesting chart the other day that showed the Facebook traffic each of the candidates was getting.

Erin O’Toole far and away had the most followers and the most traffic, Leslyn Lewis was third in terms of followers but had almost five times the interactions on postings compared to Peter MacKay.

MacKay was second in terms of Facebook followers but trailed even Derek Sloan when it came to people reacting online.

Here’s the thing, Facebook traffic doesn’t equal membership.

MacKay launched first and started out well. He fundraised, he sold memberships, he got media attention. Then he started getting the wrong kind of media attention. The campaign made mistakes.

Then COVID put the campaign on ice.

O’Toole, much like he did when he finished third in the 2017 leadership race, took a slow and steady approach. He has gained traction slowly, pitched himself as more conservative, more right-wing than I think he actually is and went after the party’s base.

He outperforms MacKay on social media and hasn’t made as many public errors, but has he sold the memberships?

Right now, that is the big question.

Lewis has been making strides but perhaps a bit too late unless she can convince people who bought memberships for other candidates to switch their vote and that may very well happen. Lewis is impressing all kinds of people with her calm demeanour and unflinching stances on key conservative issues.

As for Sloan, he’s battling it out to be the social conservative kingmaker but I’m not sure he will even accomplish this.

He draws much of his support from the Life Site News crowd, a significant army of volunteers and donors, but he hasn’t broken out of that.


Leslyn Lewis

Lewis is also coming out of the social conservative faction of the party though her backing comes mainly from the Charles McVety, Canada Christian College following. The big difference is she has grown her base from there while Sloan has not.

O’Toole has been careful not to alienate social conservatives and has asked them to make him their number two choice in this ranked ballot runoff.

MacKay called social conservative issues a “stinking albatross” around Andrew Scheer’s neck in the postmortem of last fall’s election.

I don’t see MacKay getting many votes from that camp.

The conventional thinking is that MacKay has to win on the first ballot or lose to O’Toole, if not Lewis, later on in the voting.

I’m not sure that’s the case, he just has to convince enough existing members that he’s the man to beat Trudeau.

I have no vote in this; I’m not a party member and never have been. So, I’ll be watching to see who the candidates are pitching at, trying to decipher where they think their growth is.

The biggest question going through the minds of members needs to be who can beat Justin Trudeau and lead this country back to a solid footing after the next election.



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#Conservative win marks bad day for people of Britain, says #GUE/NGL


A statement by GUE/NGL Co-President Martin Schirdewan on the Conservative Party’s victory in the British general election: “Today is a sad day for people living in Britain.

“It is bitterly disappointing that the message of hope has not carried in the face of a dirty and dishonest campaign by the Conservatives.

“Voters who had voted for change, for an end to austerity, for social and tax justice, will now have to endure a government bent on social inequality, deregulation, discrimination and xenophobia.

“It is also now clear that Britain will be leaving the EU at the end of January. As the Left in the European Parliament, we will continue to hold the British government to their commitments under The Good Friday Agreement,” he added.

“Furthermore, we will protect the interests of people across the EU in the negotiations on the future relationship. We will also seek to safeguard the interests of the people in Britain, and will work with the broader labour movement and progressive forces in Britain to this end,” said Schirdewan.

Also commenting on the vote’s impact on Brexit, Martina Anderson (Sinn Féin, Ireland) said: “The people in the North of Ireland want to remain in the EU. The result of this election shows that the only way that this can happen is through Irish unity – a referendum on which is guaranteed under The Good Friday Agreement.”

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Category: A Frontpage, Brexit, EU, EU, European Parliament, UK





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Scheer facing an internal audit over use of Conservative Party funds


OTTAWA–Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is facing an internal audit over the use of party funds to cover his children’s private school tuition.

Two sources told the Star Friday night that the Conservative Fund board, which manages the party’s finances and counts former prime minister Stephen Harper as a member, has ordered a forensic audit into the party’s expenditures.

The decision comes after revelations that Conservative Party Executive Director Dustin van Vugt approved using party funds to partly cover tuition for Scheer’s five children at Ottawa private schools.

Harper is said to be furious over the expenses, according to one source with direct knowledge of the former prime minister’s thinking. Members of the Conservative Fund, who hold tremendous sway on the party’s operations, feel that the tuition expenses were deliberately withheld from the board.

Another Conservative source disputes that characterization, and suggested the tuition expenses were included in financial materials sent to the board for approval.

Whichever side is right, the issue has reignited public infighting within the conservative movement just a day after Scheer announced he would step aside as leader.

Van Vugt may be a casualty of that infighting. One report Friday evening suggested he had been fired, while another news outlet suggested that was false. As of deadline, it was not clear what van Vugt’s employment status was.

What was clear is that the Conservative “civil war” did not end with Scheer’s decision to step down after his successor was chosen.

“Why are we exercising this as a public exchange of insults and firings and unfirings and so on, instead of people sitting down, going through a due process, and announcing to the world what the results are?” said one longtime Conservative hand.

Van Vugt, who was appointed on the recommendation of Harper himself, was responsible for quarterbacking the Conservatives’ last leadership race in 2017. With the party now facing a surprise leadership race, his departure would mean a considerable loss of institutional memory at a crucial juncture.

The Canadian Press reported Friday evening that the Conservative Fund directors held a conference call Friday, and circulated an email saying van Vugt was no longer employed with the party. But the Conservative Fund does not have the power to fire the party’s employees, and it’s not clear who has the authority to fire him. One Conservative source suggested the Fund was trying to find a scapegoat.

But the issue has members of the Conservative Fund’s board looking at “new safeguards” to protect the party’s coffers, a source with knowledge of the board’s discussion said Friday.

After the Conservatives’ disappointing election loss and months of open criticism and infighting, Scheer told Conservative MPs Thursday that he would step aside after his successor was chosen. At the conclusion of two emergency caucus meetings Thursday, Conservative MPs voted unanimously to allow Scheer to hang on to the top job until a new leader is chosen.

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While Scheer was informing Conservative MPs of his decision, Global News first reported that the Conservative Party was partly covering private school tuition costs for Scheer’s five children. The revelations rankled some within the Conservative family, suggesting that donors’ money should not be spent on private school tuition.

Van Vugt released a statement shortly afterwards confirming that the party paid the “differential” cost between private school tuition in Regina, where Scheer represents, and Ottawa, where he has lived for most of his life. Van Vugt said that the funds were properly approved.

With files from Canadian Press





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Andrew Scheer is resigning as Conservative leader


OTTAWA —
Andrew Scheer is resigning as the Conservative leader, but will stay on until a replacement is named.

Scheer is speaking in the House of Commons about what he has called “one of the most difficult decisions” he has made, after meeting with his caucus on Parliament Hill on Thursday morning.

Because of the disappointing election loss for the party, Scheer was set to face a mandatory leadership review at the party convention in April, but in recent weeks there was mounting pressure from party insiders for Scheer to step aside sooner.

From not making gains in key electoral grounds like Ontario and Quebec, to his personal stance on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion, Scheer was dogged with criticism that he would not be able to beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the next election.

Since the election, Scheer had embarked on a cross-Canada listening tour, fired some senior staff members, and has been awaiting a report from former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird who he tasked with conducting a Conservative campaign post-mortem.

More to come…



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The Conservative Party Leadership Race


The 2018 dystopian videogame We Happy Few takes place in an alternate version of Britain in 1964. A sparsely-detailed plot suggests that twenty years after the Nazi conquest of Britain, the Soviet counter-conquest of Europe, and the collapse of the Empire, 1960s Britain has become a desolate, hopeless land. Consequently the game’s setting, the fictional island town of Wellington Wells, has completely isolated itself not only from the wider world but even the remains of the United Kingdom. To cope with dark memories and the bleak desolation of their collapsing dystopia, the citizens of Wellington Wells have psychologically retreated into a land of make-believe. In a collapsing realm with no agriculture, no industry, a media which broadcasts recycled lies and fanciful nostalgia, Wellington Wells’ complete isolation from reality is maintained through constant xenophobia towards every nation (including all other Britons not of wealthy, Southern, English descent); and heavily redacted, over-the-top patriotic versions of history in which Britain is not the destitute and forgotten land it has become but that England always was, England still is, and England always will be, the supreme nation on Earth. This delusion, though, is not found only in the fictional Britain of We Happy Few.

After three years of Brexhaustion, the political deadlock is about to be broken. At least in name, if not practice. Following Theresa May’s repeated failure to pass the Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament and her subsequent resignation, the future of Brexit now rests with approximately 160,000 fee-paying members of the Conservative Party who are offered a choice of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt. Barring the most unlikely of circumstances, Boris Johnson is all but guaranteed to become the next Prime Minister, a position he has been waiting for for at least two years. His victory is assured because, in spite of his unpopularity among Conservative MPs and the widespread contempt in which he is held by swathes of the British population, Boris Johnson is the natural choice of Conservative Party members. Because of their demographics, Conservative Party members are not only highly Eurosceptic but, like the citizens of Wellington Wells, entertain questionable versions of history and exhibit an isolation from the rest of the country.

Brexit was not the result of a single factor. But as many commentators and analysts have indicated, nationalist sentiments and imperial nostalgia, particularly among older sections of an English population who believes that Britain alone won the Second World War (despite there being very few people left alive who were combat-active in a war that ended 74 years ago), were significant motivations. Now that the choice of the Prime Minister who will be in Downing Street when October 31st comes, is the choice of 160,000 party members, the demographics of the Conservative Party demonstrate not only why Boris will win, but what awaits Britain after Hard Brexit.

Recent research reveals two significant datasets. First is the demographic composition of the Conservative and Unionist Party. 97% of Conservative members are white. 70% are male. The average age is 57, while 44% of members are over the age of 65. Economically, the vast majority of members are very wealthy homeowners; and geographically, the majority of members are concentrated in rural areas and small towns in the southern shires.

Second is party members’ political preferences surrounding Brexit. The party is conservative not only on economic and constitutional matters but on social issues, as evidenced by the party losing 35-40% of its membership over same-sex marriage in 2013. Research from Queen Mary University shows that half of Conservative members support bringing back the death penalty, and 84% believe that schools should teach obedience to state authority. The remnants of that shrinkage demonstrate stark preferences on Brexit, as revealed by a recent YouGov poll of party members. The June 18th poll revealed that Brexit is so important to party members, they are prepared to initiate the destruction of the party and the fragmentation of the United Kingdom itself, to achieve Brexit. To achieve Brexit, 63% would accept Scotland declaring independence, 61% would accept significant damage to the British economy, 59% would accept Northern Ireland declaring independence or joining the Republic of Ireland, and 54% would accept the destruction of the Conservative Party itself. The only scenario that would cause a razor-thin majority of party members (51%) to abandon Brexit is the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.

The party membership, significantly, is much wealthier than the average Briton. Hence Boris Johnson’s promise to give the super-rich a major tax cut, paid for by raising everyone else’s taxes. Economically, Jeremy Hunt’s plan to slash corporation tax from 19% to 12.5% would be less undesirable, partly because it would likely attract money into the country as opposed to Boris Johnson’s pledge to simply shuffle existing money upwards. In a general election, the Conservatives might have chosen Hunt as party leader over Johnson. But with the future of Britain in the hands of 160,000 party members rather than 45,000,000 eligible voters, Hunt’s policies are irrelevant. And policies of economic loyalties are not the only trump cards which Boris holds. For better or for worse, Boris Johnson is a far more charismatic politician and performs well as a quintessentially English character, combining a Churchillian bulldog pantomime act with just the right level of fake bumbling and self-deprecating modesty. To an ageing, wealthy, shrinking party membership who are already prepared to break up the UK and destroy the party in order to deliver what Fintan O’Toole termed “the paranoid fantasy of Brexit”, the delusional imagination that England single-handedly defeated Nazism and that the EU represents a new continental evil, Johnson is all but guaranteed to win. The implications for this are significant.

The Bow Group’s own research indicates that the Conservative Party is in terminal decline, attracting next to no new members while losing existing members to resignations, lapsed memberships, and death. Significantly, new research on changing political preferences shows that in the age of austerity, Britons are not turning to conservatism in middle age as they used to Research in 2013, which predicted the Conservatives slipping to third or fourth place in the UK by 2023 due to membership attrition alone, has been proven to be right for the wrong reason. The Conservative Party’s disastrous performance in the May 2019 European Parliament elections, and the June 2019 Peterborough by-election, revealed a party that has already slipped into somewhere between third and fifth place; a defeat rendered worse by the six-week-old Brexit party mauling the UK’s oldest party. This leaves Parliament in checkmate, incapable of moving in any direction. The Conservatives are still fighting their civil war, but so are Labour. With Labour still licking its wounds from a decisive defeat in the European elections and a Pyrrhic victory in Peterborough, with Jeremy Corbyn still incapable of formulating anything that vaguely resembles a policy on Brexit, and with Labour likely to spend yet another summer dealing with anti-Semitism accusations (this time, in the form of a government enquiry) there is very little chance that support for a second referendum will receive a Parliamentary majority. Neither will support for a No-Deal Brexit. Neither will support for a revived version of Theresa May’s thrice-defeated Withdrawal Agreement. This leaves the possibility of Boris Johnson calling a general election, but with the Conservatives fighting a war on four fronts against Labour, the Brexit Party, the Liberal Democrats, and each other, this would be a suicidal option. Meanwhile a stronger EU is in no mood to extend the Brexit negotiations any further. The net result of this is that unless something unforeseen and highly unlikely happens, October 31st will quickly arrive with a No-Deal Brexit as the default option, no matter what Parliament wants.

There are other possibilities, as unlikely as they are. Boris Johnson could promise No Deal just long enough to win the support of 160,000 Conservative leavers, then betray them as soon as he gets the keys to Downing Street (unlikely). Boris could end up relying heavily on Conservative ministers who might try to steer him away from Hard Brexit (quite unlikely). Jeremy Corbyn could resign his leadership and make way for a Remainer to lead Labour (very unlikely). Or perhaps a general election could actually produce a majority for a party – any party – which has a clear Leave or Remain stance, and at least break the deadlock in Parliament (most unlikely). Or, something unexpected and unpredictable could happen, such as Boris Johnson becoming the third Conservative Prime Minister to be toppled by Brexit, triggering yet another leadership race or an election in the last days before Brexit. Yet even if a general election in the autumn returns some sort of majority, either for the Tories or Labour (or even the Liberal Democrats, however unlikely that may be), the new Prime Minister will still be faced with a polarised country whose faith in politicians, and in British politics itself, has never been lower. With the October 31st deadline looming, no Prime Minister will be able to satisfactorily navigate an angry Parliament and a furious electorate. Hard Brexit is the likeliest outcome not only because of a lack of time and appetite for a second referendum, and not only because Parliament is too deadlocked and the EU too fed up with the British to offer another extension, but because it is the desire of the Conservative Party’s membership. Even if it means the destruction of their party and the breakup of their country, splendid isolation at any price is the final act of Brexit.

The videogame We Happy Few paints a bleak picture of Britain after disaster. In the crumbling wasteland of Wellington Wells the government’s and population’s desperation to quarantine their town from the outside world, and from their own despair at losing the Empire and losing a war, has resulted in a starving, economically devastated realm teetering on the brink of complete societal collapse. In this defeated dystopia, the grim realities of past, present, and future are glossed over by a shrinking group of citizens who shun reality in favour of manufactured memories, delusions of grandeur, and empty affirmations of quintessentially English (but not British) exceptionalism. With Britain’s actual future in the hands of a similarly shrinking group, life will soon imitate this art.





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