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In the corridors of modern UK politics, conversations rarely touch upon overseas elections from over three decades ago. Yet, a mere whisper of “Canada” and “1993” in the same context has been known to send a shiver down the spine of a Conservative MP in the last week or so. Wellingborough and Kingswood would be the reasons why.

This was an “extinction-level event” that befell a once-dominant right-wing party – the sister part of the British Conservatives. No one ever forgets a family tragedy, do they?

The grim reality dates back to October 1993, when the Progressive Conservative party, ruling Canada since 1984, suffered a catastrophic collapse from 167 federal seats to a mere two. This ultimately led to its dissolution, merging into the new Conservative Party of Canada.

The parallels drawn are rather intriguing: a confident conservative incumbent, fresh off a leadership change (Kim Campbell replacing Brian Mulroney), grappling with serious economic woes and confronting a burgeoning new right-wing party called, wait for it, Reform.

One pertinent similarity lies in the electoral system. Canada, much like Westminster, utilises the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, notorious for skewing the translation of votes into MP seats. In 1993, despite securing 16% of the vote, the Progressive Conservatives ended up with less than 1% of the seats.

Could history repeat itself in the UK? Some factions within the Conservative Party (and they do love a faction or ten), advocate for Rishi Sunak to embrace Reform UK’s harder-right populism, particularly on immigration, citing recent byelection losses in Wellingborough and Kingswood as warning signs. These constituencies, once Conservative strongholds, witnessed a significant decline in Tory support, with Reform securing notable percentages.

We at Sociables Express do not think of the byelections as warning signs. It is far too late for that. The emergency evacuation should very much be in progress – i.e. a General Election should be called so that the country can move forward from its zombie-like economic, social, and political state.

The nightmare scenario for pessimistic Tories would involve further polling slips and Nigel Farage reclaiming the helm of Reform before the election, garnering support among disillusioned right-wing voters.

While a complete collapse akin to Canada’s 1993 outcome seems unlikely, we think the intricacies of FPTP could drastically reduce Tory MPs with a significant shift in polling.

Experts argue that despite parallels, significant differences exist between Canada in 1993 and the UK today. However, uncertainty looms amidst the volatile British electorate.

The significance of by-election defeats

In a more plausible scenario, where the Tory vote diminishes to around 100 seats or less, we think that the prospect of Nigel Farage and/or Reform seizing control of the Tory party seems a conceivable scenario. This realignment, potentially uniting key donors, could push the party further towards the right, especially with moderates departing or facing disciplinary action since 2019.

This adjusted stance reflects our belief and is based on conversations with activists and senior figures in the Conservative Party leading to the inescapable conclusion that the party’s only viable trajectory lies towards the right. Like it or loathe it, we have a sneaky suspicion the Reform party will give them a bit of a bloody nose in the process.

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