Rupert Matthews is the Conservative MEP for the East Midlands
He writes “And so to Conservative Campaign Headquarters for an in-depth briefing on how our party is going to run the European Election Campaign. I was greeted by one of my fellow Conservative MEPs who took me by the arm and steered me aside to a quiet corner.
“Have you heard our campaign slogan for these elections?” he asked. I hadn’t. “It is ‘Vote Conservative because everything is going wonderfully’,” then he burst out laughing. The gallows humour was kicking in early.
“As it turns out we will not be having a campaign slogan as such, but instead a number of approved lines to use. And given that there are only two weeks left to voting day I would not be giving very much away to say that we are skipping a lot of activity that usually takes place and going straight for the Get Out the Vote activity. So no national campaign launch, no manifesto and no policy announcements.
“Briefing over, the 50 or so MEP candidates prepared to leave, only to find that we were all locked in the conference room. Who had the key to let us out? Nobody seemed to know. Eventually the right chap was found and we were let out into the London twilight. There must be a metaphor there somewhere, but I can’t find it.
“Of course, the big news this time last week was the local election results. We Conservatives received an absolute hammering. Regular readers will recall that while I predicted a bad day for the Conservatives, I spectacularly missed the true extent of the disaster. I will excuse myself on the grounds that in the East Midlands, which I represent, we had some very good results – notably in North East Derbyshire – which may have misled me rather.
“I stand by what I wrote then about the reasons. Where a Conservative campaign was targeted on a popular local issue then the doorstep conversations [and apparently the votes] concentrated on discussion of that. Where there was no obvious local issue then talking to voters tended to drift to national issues – and so Brexit dominated. In Leave areas that meant we did badly. In some places our voters stayed at home and turnout was down; elsewhere votes were actively cast against us – in some parts for Independents of one kind or another. And there were unprecedented numbers of spoilt ballot papers – hundreds of them in some places. None of which bodes well for our results in the European Elections.
“Anyway, social media is now full of Remainers claiming that the boost in councillors for the Lib Dems and Greens [fanatical Remain parties both] shows that the British people have turned their backs on Brexit. All I would say is that the view from the streets here would indicate something different. Lib Dem leaflets in this area did not mention Brexit at all – except in one corner of Leicestershire where the Lib Dems very noticeably failed to win. “Their anti-Brexit leaflets helped us enormously,” the winning Conservative candidate told me yesterday”.
Senior Tory and Labour politicians
have issued frantic calls to their voters to back them in next week’s European elections after a new poll showed support for Nigel Farage’s Brexit party had soared to a level higher than for the two main parties put together. The Opinium survey for the Observer places the Brexit party on 34%, when people were asked how they intended to vote on 23 May, with Labour slipping to 21% and the Conservatives collapsing to just 11%.