John Harris

Journalist & Author

The Tories have forgotten their pro-EU voters. And they’ll pay for it | John Harris

In my home town, I’ve seen how middle-class angst over Brexit is creating an existential threat to the party which could once count on their votes

In a seemingly endless season of Tory nightmares, this week looks set to mark the most dreadful phase so far. The Conservatives are about to endure a set of elections that they never thought they would face. Only four years ago, the party won a general election; now, there is talk of them finishing fifth, or even sixth. With every Tory moan of pain, Nigel Farage’s nicotine grin grows ever larger. And out in the country, there is an overlooked Conservative crisis: one bound up not with the part of the population that voted for Brexit, but with the liberal, pro-remain swathe of the country without whom the future of Conservatism looks bleak indeed.

I come from somewhere still understood as one of the most Tory places there is. Wilmslow, in Cheshire, has a population of 25,000 and is a dormitory town on the southern edge of the sprawl around Manchester. Part of the Tatton constituency, it was once represented by George Osborne, and these days is the adopted home of the zealous Brexiteer Esther McVey. Though slightly more mixed class-wise than its reputation might suggest, it remains a byword for suburban affluence, and McVey sits on a majority of 15,000. But in the referendum of 2016, Wilmslow was part of a wider Tory-supporting area that voted 54% for remain.

A politics of nostalgia and nastiness is the complete opposite of what these voters look for

Related: A warning to the Tories: Britain’s true-blue suburbs have turned liberal | John Harris

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