We've given up: Columnists articulate Tory despair

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Indy Politics
Matthew Parris, the former Tory MP, yesterday became the third Conservative commentator in 48 hours to write off the Tories chances of winning the general election.

The consensus among the scribbling Tory classes is that the Tories are heading for defeat. But they are already writing about the succession for the Tory leadership. In a call for John Major after defeat to stay on as a caretaker leader for 12 months, Mr Parris said: "A presumption is growing that if the Tories lose then John Major goes - quickly. The presumption is unfounded, almost without precedent, and wrong. It should be rebutted now."

Boris Johnson, who is standing for the Tories in Clwyd South, was the first to admit the writing was on the wall after the Wirral by-election.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: "It's no longer if. It's when ... It's Labour will this, and Labour will that, and never mind the formality of the election."

"Having decided that Peter Mandelson will get a cabinet job, the real cool cats of punditry are already discussing Mr Blair's second reshuffle.

"What an extraordinary position, when spring is here, and the weather so fine ... the Opposition appears predestined to win? And yet so they appear."

He produced 20 events which could stop Labour winning, including public revulsion to Robin Cook's predictions of a Labour landslide. The voters might decide to vote Tory to prevent such a landslide. "Incredible, I know. But you can't take the voters for granted."

Simon Heffer, an unrelenting right-wing critic of John Major, and columnist in the Daily Mail, said on the BBC radio Today programme it would be morally bad for the Tories to win a fifth term.

He said it had been immoral for the government to put up taxes and for Mr Major to keep Britain in the European exchange rate mechanism before it was forced out on "Black Wednesday".

"It cost, while it was in operation, a million jobs, 100,000 homes repossessed and businesses failing, and no one took any responsiblity for it. That was a great moral mistake in this Conservative Party's history," Mr Heffer said.

Mr Parris, writing in the Times, said: "Granted miracles can happen. Tony Blair might be eaten by a shark. The Archangel Gabriel might appear in Trafalgar Square on the eve of poll and command Britain to vote Conservative. Jack Straw might read his pager the wrong way up and pledge himself to the slaughter of the first-born. Though any vacuum as perfect as new Labour remains capable at all times of imploding, the vacuum chamber has been engineered well and replicated in steel. The chances of accident diminish as the clock ticks."

It's no longer if. It's when ... It's Labour will this, and Labour will that, and never nind the formality of the election

Boris Johnson

`Daily Telegraph'

Oh come on, let's just say it. The Tories are heading for defeat

Matthew Parris

`The Times'

A Tory defeat would be right because a government that has governed as immorally as this one cannot expect to be re-elected

Simon Heffer

`Daily Mail'