We can win the war against Brexit if we fight battles for hearts and minds simultaneously on three fronts: left, centre and right leaning voters.
In the 1980s, the Conservative Group for Europe, keenly supported by local MP Michael Fallon by the way, was the dominant force in the European Movement.
Conservative governments tried to make Britain safer, stronger and more prosperous.
Conservative governments led in building up the world’s most successful ever peace project, our shared EU, which is now the world’s largest and most sustainable economy, the world’s leading social market and the world’s leading soft power.
So it’s really weird to see people I thought I’d known for more than a third of a century - Theresa May, Damian Green - going so far so fast in reverse.
Conservative voters frankly don’t expect Tory governments to:
trash the economy,
slash the police and armed forces,
make Britain a laughing stock on the world stage,
risk breaking up the UK and creating difficulty in Ireland,
put today’s interest of the Tory party ahead of tomorrow’s interest of Britain,
prioritise ideology over practical solutions for Britain’s current problems.
The Tory train is heading off the rails and over the cliff!
So long as we can stop Brexit before it happens, this Brexit fiasco as an opportunity to rebuild the British centre-right in a more traditionally moderate way offering Britain’s successor generations the best possible opportunities as European Citizens.
Brexit ideologues either fabricate a reactionary and inaccurate concept of sovereignty or pursue a largely concealed agenda of political authoritarianism and economic neoliberalism for which there is not the slightest hint of a political mandate in Britain.
These people are a blip, not the future.
The Conservative Party which I joined - and supported for a third of a century - unambiguously saw its main duty as defence of the realm from threats at home and abroad.
It accepted the distinctively European post 1945 settlement: the social market with a competitive economy and a safety net for all who needed it so everyone could become the best they could be.
It understood that its role was not to project divisive ideology but to be a balance against, and not for, ideologies of the moment.
It understood that it should promote economic growth on a basis promoting civil harmony.
An enduring if not always endearing feature of Toryism was also its resolutely magnetic attraction to power, yes supporting hierarchy at home, clinging to the USA as the Empire slipped away, but also within Europe working constructively within the leading political family, the EPP, and leading the rebuilding of Europe’s economic and geopolitical strength and unification of free Europe.
All this today is subordinated to an ideological quest for Brexit after an over-interpreted and poorly conducted advisory referendum.
Not surprisingly, given his experience as wartime PM, Winston Churchill - Conservative - wanted a United States of Europe and said in 1948 We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole.
Our opponents say he didn’t want Britain to join in, but they’re factually wrong. He expressly supported Macmillan’s government in applying for membership.
And Macmillan - Conservative PM - said in 1962 that Britain wanted to be part of Europe together moving forward from an economic to a political union.
It was never just a market. This was always about rebuilding, as fellow democracies in partnership, Europe’s geopolitical capacity after devastating European civil war.
Edward Heath - Conservative PM - of course took Britain in.
Thatcher - Conservative PM - got Europe to agree our blueprint for a single market but perhaps even more significantly said that the main reason for being in Europe was peace and security.
She said The more closely we work together … the better our security will be from the viewpoint of the future of our children.
She also noted that being in Europe gave Britain a world role.
This is so … Tory!
And also, after the first direct elections to the European Parliament in 1979, it was Tory MEPs who strengthened the Parliament by, for example, reproducing Parliamentary Questions on the Westminster model.
Even Theresa May, before the referendum, stated that Britain would be more prosperous, more secure and more influential inside Europe.
Her speech of 25 April 2016 while unhelpful on human rights was in some ways a classic Conservative statement about Europe. It’s available on the Home Office website. It’s worth reading.
She spoke approvingly of the need to be in the EU to access the European Arrest Warrant and she claimed credit for the Passenger Name Records Directive, boasting that it could not have happened without British leadership and influence.
She spelled out Britain’s opportunities in the single market, noting that outside the EU London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre would be in danger.
She went into some detail about how difficult it would be to negotiate remotely acceptable trading agreements outside the EU.
And there were two other Tory themes:
But if Brexit isn’t fatal to the European Union, we might find that it is fatal to the union with Scotland.
But it shouldn’t be a notable exception when Britain leads in Europe: it should become the norm.
I believe the case to remain a member of the European Union is strong she concluded.
She’s become a PM who spends her time and our money obsessing on what she knows to be wrong for Britain.
Her “Brexit means Brexit” faustian pact to get into No 10 is her personal tragedy.
It must not become Britain’s tragedy.
With the help of events and with heroic effort we - local people leading locally across Britain - have a chance to turn this round.
I’ll conclude if I may with a more partisan observation.
After the referendum, our intuition was that Tory MPs would become vulnerable to a pro-EU centre-right challenge in constituencies which are both Conservative and pro-Europe.
We did our own opinion polling before the General Election and, without going into more detail, that confirmed our intuition. We believe this effect will get stronger and spread through 2018.
So I end by returning to my first sentence.
If there’s a General Election next year, Stop Brexit should be top priority.
We can and must win!