End this Tory drift

Partygate is not the only problem haunting the Government. Voters are increasingly critical of its handling of the economy, while the latest consumer confidence figures point to widespread pessimism about the future. Too many public sector agencies are still failing to operate as they should, partly due to the refusal of Civil Service workers to return to the office. New polling shows that the Tories are haemorrhaging support in the Red Wall constituencies they seized from Labour at the last general election.

The short-term damage is likely to be seen in the local elections next month, which are predicted to be a bloodbath for the Conservatives. This is regrettable because Tory councils tend to be both better run than their Labour equivalents and committed to lower taxes. Councillors who have kept faith with Tory principles may find themselves ejected from office because of mistakes made by a Government that has not.

The aftermath of those defeats is therefore expected to be another moment of political peril for the Prime Minister. But it would be a mistake to attribute all his woes to partygate. One of the reasons for dissatisfaction among Tory MPs is the palpable sense of drift. Boris Johnson is correct to say that the public would like politicians to focus on issues apart from a scandal that occurred during a pandemic that the country has moved on from. The trouble is that ministers, lacking any sort of direction or coherent vision for the country, have failed to give voters anything else to focus on. There are still two years until the next election. The Conservatives’ situation is probably recoverable, but not if they continue like this.

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