Divided and confused Tories need a rest and we need a rest from them

If I was the editor of Conservative Home, I would be embarrassed to publish its annual poll of the most popular Tory MP. Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield won.

If you are struggling to remember who Anderson is, think of cooking 30p meals, a challenge a reporter from the Nottingham Post found impossible. Anderson is the former Labour councillor turned Tory MP who said people going to food banks can’t cook or budget. I wonder what he had for Christmas dinner. Maybe an out of date wet lettuce reduced at the supermarket checkout. He is a fully paid up member of the nasty party and infamously can’t cope with hecklers, telling one: “If you smartened yourself up, you’d make a good tramp.” And he faked a doorstep interview but didn’t have the sense to turn off a microphone while arranging the stunt.

Perhaps it was this this nastiness and lack of integrity that led to him being voted Backbencher of the Year by Conservative Home’s panel of readers. How representative those readers are of Conservatives at large is unknown. Anderson gained a mere 54 of 553 total votes. You don’t have to have a degree in statistics to recognise that is less than 10% of votes. What a dismal showing. Although Conservative Home voters could select their own candidates, it is clear there nowhere near a consensus among dedicated Tories.

In the annual Conservative Home survey of its panel members, Boris Johnson won 35 votes. Jacob Rees-Mogg earned 32 presumably from those that vote with a stiff upper lip. Theresa May and MP John Redwood gained 29 votes each and Sir Graham Brady won 22.

There is no consensus among Tories. Just as there wasn’t during the first interminably long leadership election last summer. That ended in the election of record breaking Liz Truss. The second election was shorter because the hoi polloi of the party was not given a vote. With the election of Rishi Sunak, the world got the impression that the Tories had exhausted themselves squabbling. Certainly, they had exhausted the world.

And the Tories are intellectually and politically exhausted. The Conservative Home panel doesn’t think the party has much of a short term political future. In November, only 11% of its members thought the Conservatives would be in a majority government after the next general election.

The Conservatives are a dismal, disoriented and demoralised lot. Nadine Morris is even talking about bringing Boris Johnson back to rescue the party from the crisis he did so much to create.

They could be a decent lot if they joined opposition parties and called for a general election now. The party needs to be out of government for a few years at least to lick its self-inflicted wounds and heal itself.

Of course, I would hope that the Tories are never in power ever again. But if we have to suffer them in power, they should be a lot better than this shamble of a government.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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25 Comments

  • “””you are struggling to remember who Anderson is, think of cooking 30p meals”””

    But when Jack Munroe, the author numerous low budget “bootstrap” cookbooks and darling of “progressives” makes the same claim, she’s feted as a hero and saviour of the poor. Weird that

    “””infamously can’t cope with hecklers, telling one: “If you smartened yourself up, you’d make a good tramp.” “””

    Sounds like he copes with hecklers in exactly the same way hecklers have been coped with for centuries. With quick put-downs.

    Really, there is so much to criticise the Conservative Party and individual MPs for, and this is all that can be served up?

  • nigel hunter 28th Dec '22 - 11:43am

    30p meals whilst possible ! (I assume) does not feed the belly if that is all they can afford. Attack them on the derisory wages paid and the non wage economy that forces this to happen.
    Make a good tramp. Attackt hem on the state of homelessness that exists. Lack of homes to live in.
    Yes there is plenty ‘constructive’ to say about them. I to NEVER want them in govnt again.

  • Alex Macfie 28th Dec '22 - 3:19pm

    @James Pugh: Jack Monroe (note spelling, it’s as in Marilyn) doesn’t try to claim people can survive on 30p a day. Unlike Lee Anderson who talks about the issue from a position of ignorance, Monroe gives practical, realistic recipes for cooking on a budget.

  • George Thomas 28th Dec '22 - 6:09pm

    Most Tory MP’s have either left the party now or are making plans to. It stinks that MP’s who put their party above needs of the country are now putting their own needs above their party (who will be left to stand as opposition MP?) and really demonstrates how selfish a political view point it is.

    “The Conservatives are a dismal, disoriented and demoralised lot.” Indeed, they are but let’s not forget that even when energised behind David Cameron they were nasty, short sighted and too frequently just plain wrong in their workings.

  • @Alex Macfie

    “””Jack Monroe (note spelling, it’s as in Marilyn) doesn’t try to claim people can survive on 30p a day”””

    Quite right. She says 11p per meal https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/food-blogger-jack-monroe-shares-26497384

    But she’s self-labelled as “progressive”. She is only vitriolic and hateful towards the correct people (“Toryscum” etc). She’s “poor” (she most definitely is not). She’s “working class” (she most definitely is not). So she is celebrated as a saint and elevated onto a pillar of virtue by “progressives”, and sadly some liberals too. All the while grifting off an embellished life story and a lie that you can prepare your meals for 11p each, or 33p per day. But Lee Anderson is the demon for repeating what she says, because he’s all the “wrong” things.

    This is where I feel us liberals go astray and can’t make electoral inroads as of late. Too often blinded by very superficial aspects of people’s identity (which may be in part or wholly untrue) and then get excited because they say the “right” things. It all ends up a very shallow and tedious game, where grifters can earn virtue credibility (and a lot of money) just by telling lies, and people see liberals and “progressives” as naive and silly.

    Lee Anderson’s meal comments and put-down toward a heckler aren’t the problem, nor are they even the beginning of what is wrong with the Conservative Party.

  • James Pugh 28th Dec ’22 – 10:34am:
    But when Jack Munroe, the author numerous low budget “bootstrap” cookbooks and darling of “progressives” makes the same claim, she’s feted as a hero and saviour of the poor. Weird that.

    Indeed. Anderson’s critics seem unaware that a film of the event was made showing a receipt for the food bought and the meals produced. They didn’t include the cost of cooking, but they did pay full price for the food. Had they guerrilla shopped supermarket reduction counters in the evening they could have done it for less.

    ‘Lee Anderson MP’s Weekly Column’ [May 2022]:
    https://www.leeanderson.org.uk/weekly-column-18

    When people go to the food bank in a time of need, they receive a food parcel and register for budgeting and cooking lessons. These lessons teach vital life skills of how to cook cheap and healthy meals on a budget. Unfortunately, we live in a time where many people have grown up generation after generation without the role models to pass on these important skills, so this food bank is running a brilliant scheme providing essential education.

    Last year, along with three other MPs and the help of local college ATTFE, we produced a film with the food bank where we made 170 meals for 50 quid. This included a lunch, dinner, breakfast of cereal and milk, in addition to enough milk, sugar and tea for a week. This works out at around 30p a meal.

  • Martin Gray 29th Dec '22 - 7:12am

    Saddest thing in all this is – Lee Anderson was elected mp in one of the poorest districts in Nottingham…
    Whatever we might think, it’s obvious that his politics resonates with a lot of working class voters…

  • Jack Nicholls 29th Dec '22 - 8:01am

    I’m slightly staggered by some of these reactions. Citing JM themselves from an interview with Eddie Mair about these exact comments from Anderson, the issue is not the mathematics of the 30p meal (which inflation has put paid to anyway), it’s the fact that he was praising the requirement – not offer, requirement – that people receiving food parcels get these lessons. It’s not a lack of cooking skill, it’s a lack of money to buy food. JM is offering help to manage not having enough money to eat, LA is punishing people for not having enough money to eat. There is all the difference in the world, and one of many examples of Anderson kicking down and playing the politics of deserving and undeserving. It’s vile.

  • Yes we need a rest from the Tories and any talk of bringing Johnson back just goes to show how far our country has fallen in recent years ,and might I suggest that the opposition party’s up their game to prove they can return our country to somewhere near to a position we could all have some respect and trust in once more?

  • @James Pugh: You still miss the point. Lee Anderson is claiming that the alleged ability to make meals at 30p is evidence that there isn’t a problem and implying that people in food poverty therefore only have themselves to blame. Jack Monroe provides helpful advice for cooking on a budget but comes from the opposite perspective from LA — having personally experienced poverty in the past JM’s position is that people should NOT have to live like that and it is because of government policy that they do have to.

    You seem to have bought lock stock and barrel into the narratives of the partisan right, and assumed that they are true when actually they are flawed and tend only to be believed by fellow right-wingers. You do the same with the so-called “free speech” issue, imagining that right-wingers who bang on about it sincerely believe in it when actually they mean they (and not others) should be allowed to say whatever they like without consequence, and shoult down any legitimate criticism as “censorship”.

  • @JackNicholls

    The criticism of LeeAnderson has always been the 30p claim, never the compulsory cooking classes

    I am sceptical of both LeeAnderson’s 30p and JackMonroe’s 33p claim, however it is undoubtedly true that poor cooking skills makes people dependent on much more expensive (and unhealthy) processed food. Whether JackMonroe puts out the 33p claim and offers recipes (a liberal position) or LeeAnderson puts out the 30p claim and offers free ingredients on condition of attending cooking classes (an authoritarian measure aiming to achieve a liberal outcome), both are operating from the premise that this isn’t primarily about money, but cooking knowledge and skills.

    @AlexMacfie

    LeeAnderson says there very much is a problem, and that it is primarily cooking knowledge and skills, not economics. JackMonroe’s position is exactly the same, without saying the quiet bit out loud.

    Upskilling people’s cooking (and shopping) skills is about saving people money. If you have a totally uninsulated home, your energy bills can become unaffordable. Insulation will help your energy budget go further. If you have no cooking skills (or confidence), of course your food bills can become unaffordable. Cooking skills will help your food budget go further.

    I have a big issue with “progressives” criticising LeeAnderson’s premise. One, it’s completely inconsistent with the praise and sainthood showered on JackMonroe who has exactly the same premise. And secondly, upskilling people and giving them confidence in cooking makes them less dependent, gives them more choice, and saves them money, all of which are very liberal outcomes.

  • Jack made a bowl for 4 of red lentil, carrot and onion dip with pitta bread.

    She then ate the whole bowl!! Burning through 44p – 4 x 11p – at a single sesh. What was she thinking of?

    Could it be though that the 11p “portions” were only fit for a rickets’ victim with anorexia? Or is it that like an anaconda after swallowing a live goat, Jack can go without food for several weeks afterwards.

    My honest feeling is that both Jack and Lee are missing a trick. Breatharians thrive only on sunlight and fresh air. Why don’t the poor and needy just learn to meditate properly? Then we wouldn’t need food banks. And there would be all this whingeing and hand-wringing about poverty. Which is only in the mind.

    Meanwhile, if the unenlightened stiil insist on eating, it should be blindingly obvious that you can mass produce meals much more cheaply than if you are cooking for one or a family.

  • I meant: …and there WOULDN’T be all this whingeing etc.

  • James Fowler 29th Dec '22 - 12:44pm

    @ Andy – Very much in agreement with your original post. The Conservatives are as raddled and exhausted as Labour were by 2010. They need time out – but there’s still another two years of them yet unfortunately. As a sideline it is worth contemplating their extraordinary capacity for reinvention. Voted in essentially as liberal conservatives (with an additional LD handbrake!) they’ve pivoted right round to Tory nationalism. Contrast 2010’s ‘Invitation to join to government of Britain’ with 2019’s ‘Get Brexit Done’. Were that other Parties similarly agile and supple.

    @The James Pugh Cheap Meals Discussion. I agree it is annoying that some people ‘own’ issues which allows them licence to say things that others can’t. Both ‘left’ and ‘right’ equally guilty in my view.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Dec '22 - 1:01pm

    The situation we are in is not democracy, its playing politics with politics.
    No thought for the voting public. So Johnson wants another go, perhaps Mrs May would like another go.
    Warm Spaces and Food Banks, hotels getting filled to the cost of £5 million plus a day. Yet little NHS care, housing is in a dire place. That’s the state of and quantity.
    A colleague of mine on morphine because his surgery is cancelled. Pain meds increased.
    In France there were street battles, we have open borders.
    Law is a word that has little respect in real terms.

  • Jenny Barnes 29th Dec '22 - 3:32pm

    James Pugh “hateful towards the correct people (“Toryscum” etc).” The Daily Mail is over there -> https://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html
    I think you’ll find it more congenial.

  • @Jenny Barnes

    Not sure if you understood the irony in my post (or maybe I have misunderstood irony in yours), but I am drawing attention to selective outrage about alleged “hate” and “nastiness” (and selective judgement in general).

    30p per day meals Lee Anderson gives a standard put-down to a political heckler, and he’s some sort of demon. 33p per day meals Jack Monroe fills her online posting with reams hate and vitriol, but because she’s “progressive” and because her hate and vitriol is directed at the “right” people, she’s applauded and lionised. This sort of inconsistency is shallow, boring and actually debases politics

    This isn’t an isolated incident. Jeremy Clarkson puts pens to paper of his bizarre fantasy of seeing Meghan Markle having to re-enact a brutal scene of dethronment from Game of Thrones, and it’s as if the sky is falling from observing the mob of outraged “progressives”. Philip Pullman (who fantasised about Boris Johnson first being hung, and when challenged doubled down and upped it to being beheaded) was outraged about this hate. Jo Brand (who advocated throwing battery acid on Nigel Farage following days of him being repeatedly physicically assaulted in the street) was also outraged. Angela Raynor (does all her hate and vitrol need to be listed?) was outraged too. Bla bla bla

    It’s all so debasing to politics and political discussion, especially when there is so much to criticise the Conservative Party and its MPs for, but trivial things about Lee Anderson are focused on.

  • I wouldn’t necessarily swallow all of James Pugh’s observations on this Andy Boddington article showing how “the Tories are intellectually and politically exhausted”- i.e. is MP Lee Anderson’s authoritarian approach to encourage people with low/no income on cooking cheaply as good an approach as Jack Monroe’s attempts to make attractive-looking recipes that well-off people would like too?
    After all, @ James Pugh, might the MP’s approach possibly have other outcomes beyond the liberal benign intention, such as suggesting to more well-off people that those poorer ones aren’t needy and demonise them- where as the freelance social commentator’s other outcome might only be to suggest that all people of whatever income might be interested to try a trendy yet tasty looking recipe?
    However, I agree with your central premise- that before purportedly Liberal people happily jump into Us & Them culture wars by playing the ‘ Which celebrity do you like” game, perhaps there should be some thought over how superficial, tedious and indulgent a form of politics it is to focus on Personalities instead of political ideas.

  • @Thomas HJ

    “””might the MP’s approach possibly have other outcomes beyond the liberal benign intention, such as suggesting to more well-off people that those poorer ones aren’t needy and demonise them”””

    Why the default assumption that a Conservative MP must have malign intentions against poorer members of society? Bear in mind that LeeAnderson is one of the very few genuinely working class MPs in Westminster (hardly any in the Labour Party, none in ours). Son of a coal-miner, a former miner himself. Do people really think that someone like LeeAnderson wants to “demonise” his immediate family and the community which raised him? Far more likely that he has far more first hand experience and observation of low-income blue collar Britain than most MPs, and is proposing things he thinks will be to their betterment.

    From what I see, so many people are quick to think the worst of the intentions of people from a different political tribe to themselves. The stereotype of a socialist gleefully bankrupting business with taxes and crushing enterprise with regulation does exist, but the vast majority of elected Labour politicians tax and regulate because they think it is a good means to an end (equality and more welfare). The stereotype of a conservative gleefully snatching away benefits from a struggling person without work also exists, but the vast majority of elected Conservative politicians reduce tax and welfare because they think it is a good means to an end (a greater sense of personal responsibility and independence).

  • @James Pugh : I’ve not written anywhere “that a Conservative MP must have malign intentions against poorer members of society”.

    To clarify, my point is that an MP of ANY party who “offers free ingredients on condition of attending cooking classes (an authoritarian measure aiming to achieve a liberal outcome)” (your words) is an approach that has outcomes that perhaps may not be intended, as the help offered is conditional and targetted to those who need it. That means those targetted are singled out for inspection.

    Where as publishing a recipe which looks simple and appealing is an open invitation, whether it’s from a right wing or a left wing commentator/ cook/ whoever. Jeremy Clarkson could put out the recipe for the carrot & lentil dip if he would be so minded (!) it doesn’t matter- the point is that open approach doesn’t have other outcomes beyond a vaguely positive one saying all might like a nice cheap & doable recipe.

  • Peter Watson 31st Dec '22 - 7:47am

    @Tomas HJ
    You raise some important points which highlight the problems with a heated, polarised and partisan approach to this and other issues.

    “the help offered is conditional and targetted to those who need it”
    On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing!

    “that open approach doesn’t have other outcomes beyond a vaguely positive one saying all might like a nice cheap & doable recipe”
    This raises interesting questions about which approach is the most effective. Is “an authoritarian measure aiming to achieve a liberal outcome” always a bad thing? Can it be liberal to use both a carrot and a stick to help people to help themselves?

  • Peter Watson 31st Dec '22 - 8:16am

    @James Pugh “so many people are quick to think the worst of the intentions of people from a different political tribe to themselves”
    Considering the wider political battlefield (rather than the details of Lee vs. Monroe, about which I know very little), I agree entirely with the sentiments you express in this thread,and I despair of the way that debate these days is little more than the demonisation of those we disagree with.
    These days, neither the Lib Dems nor Starmer’s Labour seem to be offering anything radically different from the Tories, so “playing the man instead of the ball” is the easiest way to appear different. It also holds together individual parties which are broad coalitions with a range of views by finding one piece of common ground: hatred of another tribe!
    Even when Corbyn’s Labour was offering something radical, it was much easier for small c-conservatives in his own and other parties to attack him personally than the left-wing ideas which were starting to look dangerously popular with voters but which have now disappeared along with the man himself.
    Depressingly, I don’t see much likelihood of any of this changing. 🙁
    Perhaps proportional representation and more partnership/coalition government would help?

  • Nonconformistradical 31st Dec '22 - 8:25am

    “Can it be liberal to use both a carrot and a stick to help people to help themselves?”

    Why not? And isn’t ‘helping people to help themselves’ a key issue? If people can be helped into the habit of helping themselves there might be less dependence on the state to provide for us.

  • Peter Davies 31st Dec '22 - 11:13am

    Labour and Tories are pretty much correct in their assumption that they are playing a zero sum game at national level. A successful attack on one will benefit the other. Unfortunately, this is true even if the attack comes from us. We gain only from what differentiates us from both large parties. A positive campaigning style would do that.

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