My hand should not hover uncertainly over the ballot paper, but this time it does. In any normal election, at any normal time, the Conservative candidate has my vote, but I have to ask why. It is a matter of trust.
Party loyalty is a shorthand only – we have no loyalty in the world but to Queen and country. Conservatives win my every vote because I trust those who stand under that label, but if that trust is gone there is no reason for my vote.
This is a weird election, with no campaigning, no election literature (apart from a plea by e-mail from one candidate) and no interest. It should not be happening, and sheer incompetence is the reason, which itself saps at that trust, and although the candidates themselves are not to blame, it harms the value of that label – if a candidate stands as a Conservative they must be a sound, sensible, patriotic individual not given to ideological madness, and that is the only reason for partiality. If there is another slate of candidates equally evidencing their soundness for the task for which they are to be chosen, then they too have a right to be considered. Then it is a question of who those individuals are, and what is the task which is to be entrusted to them.
I do not know the candidates on the list before me. I have seen some of the good work by the Conservatives already MEPs, but then the first-ranked candidate, Eurosceptic as he is, voted ‘Remain’, and while I trust him not to endeavour in his folly, it causes my pencil to hover. The candidates for the Brexit Party are all Leavers, to a man and woman, but only one of them have I heard of. I do not, incidentally, like to label people as ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ as if the nation could be divided that way, but it has got into the thinking.
The task with which elected MEPs will be entrusted is to stop daft regulations and encourage common sense, and in this Conservatives have a good track record, though they will also represent the face of Britain’s voters to the European Commission, and in this we need those who will not face mockery as weak in their purpose, in which task the Brexit Party slate may on balance do better, and if regulatory scrutiny is of little importance in a tenure of a few months, if that, then the consideration of representation becomes of more importance.
There is a great deal in what ‘Archbishop Cranmer’ said yesterday, but my pencil is still wavering. The argument there and from my pleading MEP is that only the Conservatives can actually get Brexit done. Yes indeed, and were this a national general election that would ensure a Conservative vote without doubt, but it is not: British MEPs will have no power over the Brexit process unless to approve amendments to arrangements, and on that both the Brexit Party and the Conservatives can both equally be trusted to do the right thing, or in normal circumstances there would be that trust, if I knew the individuals.
Party loyalty is a function of the trust we have in the label when there is no equal alternative, but here there is one.