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Leif Sutton Williams explores division in the Tory party and how it will effect students.

With Labour polling as low as 26% in recent weeks, the Liberal Democrats humiliated into the single digits and UKIP seemingly imploding, unable to hold onto a leader for longer than three weeks, it would seem as if the Tory party would have every right to be brimming with confidence.

It looks as if we might be heading into another double decade of Conservative party rule, just as we had throughout the eighties and nineties. Indeed, ex-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said he feared Britain was turning into a ‘one party state’ with Theresa May sat triumphantly on the throne.

We can see the cracks starting to show

However, while Theresa May has a polling lead in the double digits and an opposition that doesn’t know who it wants to fight more, the Tories or itself; ideological tensions within her party brew below the surface. We can see the cracks starting to show, with tensions within the Cabinet between the Chancellor Phillip Hammond, who advocates so called ‘soft Brexit’ against the hardline Eurosceptic such as David Davies and Liam Fox, pushing for a ‘hard Brexit’.

The fight between these two factions is starting to play out over single market access and immigration controls with the centre-right, pro-business wing of the Tory party increasingly at odds with the more radically conservative, nationalist wing, who dominate much of the Tory party.

 

It doesn’t help the Prime Minister that by culling the Cameroons from the government, she has alienated a large portion of the parliamentary party, with George Osborne seemingly on manoeuvres already as an alternative leader.

Furthermore, the coalition of potential voters Theresa May has assembled is more brittle than is acknowledged. Sooner or later as Brexit negotiations start to produce real economic consequences and if May’s rhetoric about a ‘hard Brexit’ comes to pass, then she will have to face rebellion from her liberal remain wing. No way will the metropolitan Tories stand by as their financial investments disintegrate in exchange for a nationalist immigration policy.

she could potentially rip her party in two and become Robert Peel reborn

Cameron tried to walk a tightrope between these competing ideologies and we can see plainly where that got him. Theresa May’s attempt to co-opt a broad alliance of English nationalists, urban socially liberal Tories, and ex-Labour voters will crumble because their interests are fundamentally competing.

We cannot have access to the single market without ceding immigration controls and we cannot have immigration controls without ceding access to the single market. So if she does goes through with ‘hard Brexit’, she’ll have to face her remain wing down eventually and if she U-turns she could potentially rip her party in two and become Robert Peel reborn.

As students, this should give us much to worry about. Russell group universities were allocated more than half a billion pounds for research investment in 2014-15 and we still have no idea whether that funding will continue after Brexit. We don’t know whether we’re going to need to get Visas in order to study in the EU and we still don’t know if we’ll be able to retain Erasmus post Brexit either.

We’ve had to stomach the tripling of fees, outrageous student rents that continue to soar and a lack of good quality jobs when we graduate. Brexit has made our position even more unstable, with us only able to watch from the side-lines as these two wings of the Tory party slug it out, with our economic and educational futures at stake.

We can only hope the remain Tories land up on top and produce a soft landing on the other side. Who would have thought we would be missing David Cameron already?


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