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Opinion: What now for Conservative Party after huge losses at general election, asks Paul Francis

For shell-shocked Conservatives, there has been very little internal debate so far about what the party should do to restore its fortunes.

The impasse is inevitable after a gruelling and draining spell in the spotlight where, to be frank, the party probably ended up making about the same progress during its campaign as if it had stayed silent for six weeks.

Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics
Paul Francis gives his view on the latest in politics

It has some fundamental difficulties - or challenges - that it didn’t have back in 1997 when it was decimated in the Tony Blair landslide victory.

Chief among these is the burgeoning popularity of Nigel Farage’s Reform party which took around 4 million votes but ended up with just five MPs.

The question hanging over the Conservatives hinges on what it should do about a party that in many constituencies out-polled it and took second place.

One wing of the party sees no issue with the two possibly merging; while left-of-centre MPs would be horrified at the idea of some kind of political shot-gun wedding.

Kent MPs on the ‘One Nation’ wing of the party have already made it clear that they will not countenance any kind of formal link between the two.

Among them is the Tory veteran Sir Roger Gale, representing the new seat of Herne Bay and Sandwich, who blasted Nigel Farage’s party Reform UK, saying he is “worried about the rise of populism across Europe... there is no role for the Conservative Party pretending they are Reform-lite and veering off to the right.”

Former Ashford MP Damian Green was a long-term ‘One Nation’ Conservative but is now cut adrift after losing his seat. He has also been quick to rule out the notion of some kind of pact and said that on Ashford’s doorsteps, there was just as much anger about potholes as about immigration and the NHS.

The Labour government will be able to watch from the sidelines while the party endures the twists and turns of another leadership battle - an indication, perhaps, that it is going to use its significant majority to push through some of its programme that may not be popular with some.

Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

• Who will be the next leader of the Conservatives may not be the question many are asking after the party’s meltdown.

Among the names being mentioned are the Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat, who stood last time around and was the only candidate, who, when asked if he thought Boris Johnson always told the truth, nodded his head to indicate he didn’t.

And there are some who say the Sevenoaks MP Laura Trott could be a surprise entry in the race, but perhaps it is a little early in her career.

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