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Armageddon for the Tories?

The damage to the party could be severe, no matter what the referendum result

Shortly before David Cameron stood up in the House of Commons to give his crucial statement to MPs on the Europe deal, one loyal former Cabinet minister sent a text message to the Prime Minister’s mobile phone. “Firm but gentle with colleagues,” it read. The Tory leader replied that he understood and would try to follow the advice. Within weeks, though, he was sneering at Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative Eurosceptic MP, accusing him of spreading a “scare story” about the European Union, his furious manner a stark contrast to the calm courtesy of the pin-striped backbencher. It was just one sign of the increasingly poisonous mood within the Conservative Party ahead of the EU referendum on 23rd June.

As the campaign enters its final phase, Cabinet ministers are competing to contradict each other on television and radio. Political friendships are fracturing, discipline is breaking down, civility evaporating. The toxic issue of Europe is yet again spreading its venom through the Tory ranks. Although Britain is voting about whether to stay in the EU or leave, the future of the Conservative Party is also at stake, with some MPs privately questioning whether it can survive this shock to unity. “It’s pretty bad,” says one grandee. “What’s been shown is that feelings run very deep and when it’s over it will be very difficult. The Tory Party is tottering.”

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s June issue: Bronwen Maddox lays out the case for Britain to stay in Europe—the position taken by the magazine. Mikhail Gorbachev explains his hopes for Russia, suggesting that the claim democracy is bad for Russia is “balderdash.” Rachel Sylvester looks at the Conservative Party and explores what might happen to the Tories after the EU referendum. Also in this issue: Nicholas Shaxson and Alex Cobham unpick the world of hidden money and what Britain can do about tax havens. Neil Kinnock argues that Labour isn’t making progress under Jeremy Corbyn and Jason Burke examines Islamic State and the networks that underpin their attacks. Plus Stephen Bayley asks was BritArt any good?