'We're in a hell of a mess': Tory grandees lament mistakes of Cameron and May
Recent “calamitous” mistakes by Conservative prime ministers have left the UK “in a mess”, a former Tory Cabinet minister has said.
Lord Patten, who served in Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments but has been a crossbench peer since 2011, said the 2016 European Union referendum and snap election this year could leave Britain with a poorer standing in the world than at the time of the Suez Crisis.
“It may be even worse than that, because Suez was the end of an era; it was the end of our colonial aspirations, we had the knees cut from under us, the legs cut from under us by the Americans,” he told ITV’s Peston on Sunday.
“The European Union was our replacement for that colonial role and thanks to the calamitous errors of two Conservative prime ministers in a row, who thought that they could manage the unmanageable English nationalist right-wing of the Conservative party, we’re in this hell of a mess.”
Another Conservative grandee, Ken Clarke, said he had never witnessed the party as fractured as today.
“I’ve seen nothing like this,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.
“You can make some comparisons with the late 1970s; you can make, I suppose, a fair few comparisons with the Major government where we didn’t really have a majority by the time we finished.
“But the background to all the problems we have with Brexit, the economy, the changing demands on the public services – nothing like this at all, it’s quite unique.”
Lord Patten, who served as a European Commissioner after leaving the Commons, also took aim at Theresa May’s perceived lack of personal warmth during the recent election campaign.
“It’s like becoming a doctor and not liking the sight of blood, it’s very odd that people go in to politics and unlike somebody like Bill Clinton, don’t actually like people very much,” he said.
While the peer said that it would not be “very seemly to dance on Theresa May’s grave”, he added: “I don’t think she was what the stock market would call a strong hold.”
And he also took aim at the party’s continuing discussions with the “toxic” DUP to prop up a minority Tory government and warned the Conservatives were on the verge of returning to the days of the “nasty party”.
“The DUP is a toxic brand and the Conservative party has got itself back in to this situation where there is a danger of it looking like the nasty party, to borrow from Theresa May, making a very brave speech to Conservative party conference, and how that’s improved by ganging up with the DUP,” he said.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was also on the show, dismissed critics of the potential alliance, saying: “I think this is overstated by people who don’t want Mrs May to have a majority.”
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