Justice minister Dr Phillip Lee became the latest top Tory to slam his own party, as the annual Conservative conference descends into chaos. Lee spoke at a meeting chaired by the Social Market Foundation thinktank. And his words will make uncomfortable reading for beleaguered Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Europe, and Britain’s relationship to it, has divided the Tories for well over a century and much of Lee’s anger focused on Brexit. A committed Remainer, Lee stated that the government’s approach to Brexit had been “toxic”, “retrograde” and involved “putting up barriers”. Even more scathing was his comment that after the general election:
We don’t have a public mandate for the type of Brexit we were talking about in that initial six to nine months, twelve month period… The result of not having that mandate was the election, Ok? And I think it’s inescapable.
Going beyond Brexit, Lee, a former GP, was equally critical in his assessment of other issues. He described the approach to NHS and other public service funding as a “ponzi scheme” that is “about to collapse”. Lee spoke of voters under 45. For them, he stated, policies that began under George Osborne’s chancellorship and continued under Philip Hammond are tough to justify. He said:
Oh, by the way, we’re also going to tax you even more because this Ponzi scheme that we’ve had in play for pensions and for healthcare and for social care for the past 30 years is about to collapse. So therefore we want you to work really, really hard, but when you get to 65, it’s not going to be there. Hands up who thinks that’s a really compelling narrative?
The minister’s comments follow a series of other withering attacks from fellow Conservatives. So far, the chaos of the Tory conference has attracted derisive comments on social media. Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell summed it up aptly:
This Tory conference is coming over as a cross between a black and white cartoon, a slow mo car crash and a collective nervous breakdown
— Alastair PEOPLE’S VOTE Campbell (@campbellclaret) October 3, 2017
With members at all levels pulling in different directions, and a total lack of coherence, it is hard to see how the Conservatives can recover.
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