Dear Mr Herbert,
I had the pleasure of assisting your campaign in 2010 and was, unfortunately, unable to assist again in 2015 because I was living in South Korea. This year, though, I found that I did not have the same enthusiasm necessary to participate in a political campaign.
I thought, a mere two weeks or so previously, that my vote was a settled thing, a rock in a swirling sea. I attended the hustings at Steyning Grammar school. I was deeply disappointed with the poor quality of debate: the worrying embrace of fantasy, the cognitive dissonance, the thoughtless jeers and boos and cries of “Bloody nonsense” to, in the case regarding corporation tax, things which were far from being “bloody nonsense”. You were faced with a tough crowd and, I felt, appeared the only real adult in the room. There was something comic in the sequence of promises on housing: “We will build 100,000 new homes.” “We promise to build 200,000 new homes!” “We promise to pave the streets with gold, and give everyone a bar of their own so that they may grow a gold giving tree of their own!”
I appreciated, on environmental issues, the fact that you do not take the self-flagellating response, the despairing Private Frazier “We’re all doomed” attitude so common among activists: you highlighted that there are indeed reasons for optimism. Tesla have innovated with their solar technology, available next year, Switzerland recently opened its first carbon-capture factory, and there are numerous other initiatives all working away developing new technologies in numerous fields. Despair does not make good policy.
However, while I feel that you have been a good servant of the people in this constituency, I have to confess that, against my previous expectations, I have not been able to bring myself to vote for the Conservative party this time. Were we working under a PR system, you would still have had my vote. Yet, just as a vote for a labour candidate, even a jolly good one, is still a vote for Jeremy Corbyn, McDonnell, and Seamus Milne, so too is a vote for a Conservative candidate a vote for Theresa May, Nick Timothy, et al.
I think the party has conducted an awful national campaign. The old refrain is that “It’s the economy, stupid” yet what, truly, is the positive message, the call to arms? It is wrong to rely on the assumption that the opponent is too terrible for most people to consider. Where is the vision of a post-Brexit Britain? Brexit carries so many risks; those risks must be countered by something, not just “It’s the peoples’ wish, so we must get on with it.” And, in light of how the manifesto was managed, how comforting is it to people that something as complicated, as significant, as Brexit is potentially going to be managed by people who couldn’t manage a manifesto launch?
Brexit is a negotiation, which requires significant people skills, relationship management, and a nuanced understanding of international diplomacy: Theresa May does not appear to have those skills. What is the calculation for inviting Donald Trump on a State Visit at such a premature stage? He was already mired in scandal, scandal which has only grown, making the invitation look even more idiotic. And, in the recent Paris imbroglio, what is the calculation that says it is okay to just issue a statement that Theresa May had a word expressing her disappointment, while European allies are openly condemning Trump’s behaviour. Does she and her team genuinely think Britain will benefit from this stance? Britain is, admittedly, in the tricky position of being the proverbial political bridge between the USA and Europe. That requires nimble diplomacy, courting of both sides and making smart calculations: so far there seems a total lack of intelligence in the diplomatic activity of team May. That is deeply worrying.
I’m conscious that I am taking up your time with a less than pleasant e-mail. There are so many problems with the party at the moment, so many issues with the campaign, but it boils down to this: I need something to vote for and the Conservative Party is not giving me that. And, unfortunately, with some irony, Theresa May and her team (surely you’re as sick of hearing that as I am!) have brought back the sense of the Conservative Party being the nasty party. At least, in the past, it was “nasty” but competent; now it’s nasty and incompetent.
With deep regret,