Both candidates have thrown themselves against the party machinery that was formerly their ownby John Maier / December 11, 2019 / Leave a comment
The battle for Beaconsfield has now become an air campaign. One of Dominic Grieve’s electors has taken it upon himself to launch a 20-foot blimp into the sky above the constituency. On one side of the blimp is written “Out with Grieve,” on the other simply “Brexit.” Only, recently, following speculation that this high-flown intervention might be violating campaign spending law, its owner has taken to floating and then quickly lowering it at intervals. What an overripe image that is: against a darkening sky, a small sinking parcel of hot air called “Brexit” deflating slowly over the seizing heart of Conservative Britain.
Befitting of times in upheaval, three ex-Conservative ex-ministers—Dominic Grieve, Anne Milton, and David Gauke—have spent the last six weeks attempting to reassert themselves as independents in their long-held constituencies, throwing themselves into the teeth of the Conservative Party machinery that previously guaranteed them their seats. Having swung out of orbit with the party orthodoxy on Brexit, and with election day closing in, might they yet score a vindicating electoral coup?
On Marlow High Street, where I met him on Monday, Dominic Grieve presented a familiar, besieged aspect. Phlegmatic, painstaking, lawyerly, he is resolved bitterly, it seems, to picking off his erstwhile 24,000-vote majority one handshake at a time. Marlow is primordial Conservative territory: a town of serif-font tearooms and soft-tops, well-kept graveyards, stooping doorways, and the unmistakable air-borne gift-shop nausea of the home counties. Some of the dogs are more presentable than I am, and they know it; one, that comes trotting up to us in a café, is wearing a tank-top fastened with a broach. And it really does start to feel like Christmas when, later in the evening, almost 400 locals cordially pack the pews for the final hustings at All Saints Church—united, all 400 of them, in their refusal to take the last custard cream, which continues to lie, flat and taboo, on a plate when the last of them leaves.
Grieve’s small-c-conservative suspicion is that he has the fighter in the blue corner “rather rattled.” This, despite the evidence that many constituents appear to be wedded to the local Conservative Association by a bond of blood-loyalty. “I’m an apostate!”, Grieve acknowledges. “This is a tribal matter and the tribe has now decided that…