The Telegraph 2024-02-18 10:30:23

Tories must embrace traditional Conservative values to win back voters, poll suggests

Eight in 10 former Tory voters think the party would have a better chance of winning the election with a leader who embraces “traditional Conservative values”, a poll circulating among MPs has found.

The poll, commissioned by long-standing party supporter Lady McAlpine, is likely to fuel concerns in Number 10 that the Prime Minister’s leadership is more vulnerable after Thursday’s by-election defeats.

Lord Moylan, the Tory peer, said the party had a “possible path” to victory if it got “rid” of Mr Sunak and adopted new policies.

Lady McAlpine commissioned Whitestone Insight – a member of the British Polling Council set up by ComRes founder Andrew Hawkins – to survey 13,534 British adults online between Jan 23 and Feb 7.

According to the poll, Labour has a 22 percentage point lead over the Tories.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party is on 42 per cent, compared with 20 per cent for the Conservatives, 13 per cent for Reform and 10 per cent for the Liberal Democrats.

The poll also tested current and former Tory voters’ responses to a range of questions.

It found that eight in 10 “one-time Conservatives” – those who have voted Tory in the past but are now planning to back another party – agreed with the statement that the party “would have a better chance of winning the next election with someone who has more traditional Conservative values than it does with Rishi Sunak”.

In a note analysing the findings, Whitestone Insight said: “According to the poll results, replacing Rishi Sunak could mean the difference between wipeout, noble defeat, or possibly even somehow clinging on to power.”

In a further blow to the Prime Minister, 70 per cent of current Conservative voters said the party was “wrong to force Boris Johnson to resign”.

A Tory MP who has seen the poll said: “This is devastating. I’m afraid that Rishi is not failing because he is only engaging a small minority, as Jeremy Corbyn did, but because he does not engage anyone.

“Voters are crying out for a more conservative Conservative party and any leader worth their salt would be hoovering them up.”

Writing in The Telegraph, Lord Moylan, said that the Tories were facing a “calamitous result” at the election.

The peer, who is a close ally of Mr Johnson, said that the poll showed there was a “possible path” to victory. “The trouble is that the first step is being rid of Sunak and the second the adoption of policies that even now, with the flaming roof caving in, many Conservative MPs wouldn’t countenance,” he said.

The poll found that 62 per cent of people support reducing total migration to the UK, with 28 opposed.

Fifty per cent oppose phasing out diesel and petrol cars by 2035, compared to 40 per cent who support Mr Sunak’s target.

The poll comes after a tough week for the Prime Minister in which the Tories lost two by-elections in Kingswood and Wellingborough and the UK was confirmed as having tipped into recession.

A minister loyal to Mr Sunak said the party had to rally behind its leader.

“There’s a long way to go before the election and the right response is to face the front, support the leader and get on with it,” they said. “If we don’t all hang together we’ll all hang separately.”

Lady McAlpine told The Telegraph she had been a lifelong supporter of the Tories and that the McAlpine family had provided significant donations over the years.

However, she revealed that she had resigned as president of Wycombe Conservatives earlier this month in protest at the party’s central management.

She said: “Why have I paid for this poll? Because I want to know what voters really think. Because I don’t want another Labour government. Because I have watched the Conservative Party and all it once stood for being destroyed and, like many others, I feel that the only way forward is to abandon the rotten core and start afresh.”

‘Reformed Conservatives’

Lady McAlpine said she first smelled “rot” in the party when Conservative Campaign Headquarters interfered in the selection process for Wycombe ahead of the 2010 election.

She said her preference was for Mr Johnson to make a return but that a “new, squeaky clean” Conservative Party could also ally with Reform UK.

“We could beat Labour if we put Boris back in as leader now and the Central Office mafia were sacked,” she said. “Or we could field a combination of ‘reformed Conservatives’ and Reform.”

She said the party needed to “stop wasting time and money” on net zero, “dismantle and rebuild the NHS with doctors and nurses” in charge, “face up to the Civil Service” and “stop the boats”.

A government source said: “Rishi has delivered the biggest package of tax cuts since the 1980s, driven down boat crossings by over a third and introduced the toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration of any Prime Minister in history.

“He’s stopped Just Stop Oil, driven down anti-social behaviour by up to 50 per cent in hotspot areas and shored up our energy security with more British oil and gas licences. His plan is a Conservative plan, it’s starting to work and only by sticking with it and uniting behind it, can we take the fight to Labour.”

Six-car pile up on smart motorway while entire safety system shut down

The smart motorways computer safety system shut down across the country, leading to a “terrifying” six-car pile up after a vehicle broke down in a live lane, The Telegraph can reveal…

‘No way back’ for Prince Harry as working royal as palace stands firm

There is no way back for the Duke of Sussex to take a temporary working role in the Royal family while his father is ill, The Telegraph understands, after reports he is willing to step in.

The terms of the Sandringham summit, as agreed between the Duke and his late grandmother, father and brother, still stand, and rule out a “half in, half out” approach to monarchy.

On Saturday, it was reported that the Duke had expressed willingness to help the Royal family while his father is taking a break from public engagements as he receives treatment for cancer.

A newspaper claimed the Duke had told friends he would step back into a royal role, and quoted an insider saying it made “perfect sense” on a practical level.

A source close to the Sussexes on Saturday said they believed the Duke would return to help his family if asked.

The Duke and his father recently spent around 30 minutes together at Clarence House, after he flew back to Britain having learned of the King’s cancer diagnosis.

It is understood that the matter was not discussed in that meeting, at which the Queen was present, with no formal conversations taking place about the Duke’s return.

Palace sources have emphasised that the King’s illness will not change the terms of the Sandringham summit agreement, in which the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s exit from the working Royal family was negotiated in detail.

One source said: “Those terms were quite clear, and the King’s illness hasn’t altered that.”

Another confirmed that the express views of the late Queen, the King and the Prince of Wales, that a hybrid model of working royalty was not appropriate, “remains the case”.

In an interview with Good Morning America this week, the Duke said his own family was now based in California but added: “I’ve got other trips planned that would take me through or back to the UK so I’ll stop and see my family as much as I can.”

He also agreed with an interviewer that the King’s illness could help unify his family.

One source said they had a “hard time believing he [the Duke] wouldn’t want to try” to help his father, should he be asked.

The report in The Times caused disquiet on both sides of the Atlantic, with questions over the timing and wisdom of friends exposing the Duke to criticism of using his father’s illness to push a narrative of “reconciliation” with his family.

Ingrid Seward, royal commentator and author of My Mother and I, suggested anyone attempting to engineer the Duke’s return to public life in support of his father would be wasting their time.

She said: “Harry is out. There’s no going back to a public role. What would he do? He has got no patronages to exercise as a public figure and for him to come back would just be a parade for Harry. It would not be a serious, proper role like the working royals have.”

One insider said it also appeared at odds with the recent approach of “least said soonest mended” about the Royal family’s interpersonal relationships. Even the Duke’s critics had noted a lack of immediate briefing about his meeting with his father, and “fairly moderate” words in his GMA interview.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have now finished their three-day trip to Vancouver to promote the Invictus Games.

Members of the Royal family are expected to be back in action on Sunday, with the King and Queen likely to go to church at Sandringham and the Prince of Wales confirmed as attending the Baftas in his role as president of the academy.

The palace has always made it clear that no “stepping in” to fill the King’s engagements is yet necessary from any members of the family, with the Queen continuing with her programme and the Prince of Wales returning to work once his wife is on the mend from abdominal surgery.

The King intends to undertake all state business throughout his treatment, with some modifications to make sure his health is protected throughout.

Clergy warn of ‘doom spiral’ as church attendance drops off at record rate

Sunday church attendance is just 80 per cent of what it was in 2019, Telegraph analysis has revealed, despite the Church of England claiming that it has “bounced back” after the pandemic.‌

The figures reveal that church attendance has more than halved since 1987, prompting clergy to warn: “This is a doom spiral of the church’s own choosing.”

‌In 2023, The Telegraph published an investigation which revealed that parishes are closing at a record rate, prompting fears that the Church had been “dealt a death knell”.

‌The investigation found that almost 300 parishes have disappeared in the past five years alone – the fastest rate since records began in 1960. 

The figures came against the backdrop of claims that senior bishops and clergy were “putting a gun to people’s heads” to drive through controversial plans to cut costs, merge parishes and cut vicars. 

They also came amid declining congregation numbers, leaving many clergy afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs.

‌The Telegraph has analysed new data from the Church of England’s latest Statistics for Mission 2022 report, and has found that across the country, usual Sunday church attendance sits at 81 per cent of 2019 levels, meaning that 133,200 regular parishioners had not returned to the Church despite the end of Covid restrictions.

‌The Telegraph’s previous reporting on the fall in regular parishioners in 2021 had been described as “misleading” by the Church, as some Covid restrictions were still in place at the time the 2021 report was compiled.

‌However, the latest figures suggest that this is not the case.‌

Furthermore, the data show that a further 28 parishes were closed or merged in the past year, which has been controversial among churchgoers.

‌This, however, is below the record-breaking rate of reductions seen in the preceding five years when an average of 56 parishes ceased a year.

‌Across the country, 41 churches were closed, meaning 641 churches have been closed since 2000 or 4 per cent.

‌Responding to the analysis, Rev Marcus Walker, the chairman of the Save the Parish campaign group, said: “As sure as night follows day if you close parishes and reduce clergy, the number of people who are able to turn up to church will fall.”

‌The Rev, who is also Rector at St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London, who is also a member of the General Synod, the Church of England’s legislative body, added: “This is a doom spiral of the church’s own choosing. It has the money to turn this around, the question is: does it have the will?”

‌While The Telegraph’s latest analysis does suggest some minor post-Covid rebounds in church attendance, as, year on year, average attendance has increased by seven per cent.

‌This means that since 1987, usual Sunday church attendance has more than halved (-52.8 per cent), declining from 1.2 million to 556,800.‌

In Durham, just three-quarters (73 per cent) of usual congregants have returned, whilst in St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, it is 89 per cent, the highest in the country.‌

According to the Church of England’s most recent data, contained in its Statistics for Mission, it claimed that nearly a million people were regular worshippers in 2023 as the Church “continued its post-pandemic bounce back”.

‌Furthermore, over the past six years, usual Sunday church attendees have declined at a record rate with an average 32,616 fewer attendees per year.‌

In publishing its annual Statistics for Mission 2022, the Church of England said the number of regular worshippers across the whole week, not just Sundays, grew by nearly 20,000 people to 984,000 in 2022 compared to 966,000 in 2021; however, this figure is still down from 200,000 in 2019.

‌Dr Ken Eames, author of the Statistics for Mission 2022 report, from the Church of England’s Data Services team, said: “Churches did everything they could to return to normal life in 2022 following the huge disruption of 2020 and 2021 caused by the pandemic.

‌“But 2022 was not free of its impact, indeed official figures suggest that Covid rates were higher in October 2022 than in 2021.

‌“Although for many people things were getting back to normal, churches were still experiencing Covid-related disruption.”

‌Responding to The Telegraph’s latest analysis, a Church spokesman said: “The Church of England’s 2022 Statistics for Mission – the latest available – showed a welcome rise in attendance for the second year in a row with nearly a million regular worshippers in Church of England churches.

‌“Our parishes did everything they could to return to normal life in that year following the huge disruption of 2020 and 2021 caused by the pandemic.

‌“However, we know that 2022 was not free of the impact of Covid, indeed official figures suggest that Covid rates were higher in October 2022 than in 2021.

‌“There is unprecedented investment in mission and ministry taking place in the Church of England of £3.6 billion up to 2031.”

Toughen laws on killer cyclists, say family of pensioner who died after pavement collision

The family of a pensioner killed after being hit by a bike ridden on a pavement has called for tougher laws to punish cyclists who kill or cause serious injuries.

John Douglas, 75, was struck as he walked on the footpath near his home in Birmingham in November last year.

He was taken to hospital with injuries that included 15 broken ribs, two broken collarbones and a broken ankle. After four weeks in an induced coma and several weeks in intensive care, he developed pneumonia and died on New Year’s Day.

Although a man is helping police with their inquiries, there has so far been no arrest. It remains unclear whether the cyclist was riding a pedal bicycle or an e-bike.

Now, Mr Douglas’s relatives are calling on ministers to toughen up laws on cyclists who kill or cause injury to others.

Under current rules, a cyclist who kills while riding recklessly or dangerously can be jailed for a maximum of two years for “wanton or furious” riding under an 1861 law intended for horse-drawn carriages.

In contrast, motorists face a life sentence if charged and convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

‘Current laws offer no deterrent’

Conservative ministers have repeatedly promised to update laws, but relatives of those killed or injured by cyclists say the Government has failed to honour its pledge.

Christopher Bushell, Mr Douglas’s nephew, said the loss of his uncle had left him angry at how the Government promoted cycling, e-bikes and e-scooters but failed to keep laws up to date.

“My uncle’s life was cut short needlessly by someone cycling on the pavement at speed,” the 58-year-old HGV driver said.

“The current laws offer no deterrent or effective punishment for cyclists who break the law and kill or seriously injure.

“We were told that my uncle’s injuries were consistent with someone having been hit by a car travelling at speed.

“So far no one has been charged let alone arrested. But, now my uncle has died, the nature of any offence that caused that collision has become more serious which we hope means the police will act. But, I fear no one will be held to account.”

Wayne Jones, 29, who viewed Mr Douglas as a step-father, said he was astonished that “illegal” behaviour capable of causing such catastrophic injuries could go unpunished. “The cyclists should not have been on the pavement – it’s illegal. I don’t understand how no one has been charged,” he said.

A West Midlands Police spokesman said officers had seized a pedal cycle, adding: “The cyclist has been spoken to by officers and is assisting with our inquiries. We were not made aware of the incident until it was reported to us some days after by a relative.”

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said paramedics were called “to a collision involving a pedestrian and an electric bike” in the Chelmsley Wood area of Birmingham.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Dangerous cycling puts lives at risk and is completely unacceptable.

“That’s why there are already strict laws in place for cyclists and police have the power to prosecute if these are broken.”

Lesbian members bar will only admit biological women

A feminist campaigner is to open Britain’s first lesbian members bar that will only allow biological women to join.

The bar, named the L Community, is due to open in London later this year and will operate as a private members club so that it can bar trans women from signing up.

The bar has been set up by Jenny Watson, who in September last year was at the centre of a transphobia row after she insisted only “adult human females” could attend the lesbian speed-dating events she had organised, and urged men to stay away.

Ms Watson, 32, had posted on her website for the College Arms dating night in the capital at the time: “If you are male, please refrain from coming to the events, you are not a lesbian.”

She previously claimed one person had turned up to an event she ran “sporting a purple latex outfit and an erection”. She also claimed a trans woman had entered the female toilets and “pushed their body at a woman” who became “upset”.

Ms Watson, a town planner, said the backlash to her “female-only” stance for her speed-dating nights led to them being widely refused by venue owners over fears of being labelled transphobic.

“No one will take bookings for my events any more,” Ms Watson said.

“The trans activists are constantly targeting the events, so venues don’t want anything to do with them.

“But I thought I’m not going to put up with this. I’m going to fix it.

“We should have a right to our own space – hence the idea to set up the bar. It will be for biological females only and this is why we’re making it a members-only club so we can legally restrict it to women.”

Women-only spaces

The bar will continue to provide speed-dating sessions, as well as open mic shows, live music performances and a book club.

Ms Watson rejected the suggestion that her bar policy was transphobic and said she was instead trying to create a women-only space.

Ms Watson added that there were currently just two lesbian-only bars in the UK, which are in London and Manchester, and that both welcomed trans women.

“So in effect, we have zero lesbian bars in a country of almost 70 million,” she claimed. “I’m going to give it my all to change that.”

While trans campaigners have criticised the move from Ms Watson, she has gained support from Professor Kathleen Stock, a lesbian academic who recently co-founded The Lesbian Project, an organisation focused on same-sex attracted females.

Prof Stock said: “Lesbians have a right to freedom of association like everyone else.

“Running a female-only bar, available for those that want to use it, doesn’t stop people who prefer mixed-sex spaces from going elsewhere.

“This about choice, not transphobia, and lesbians should have that choice. At the moment, they really don’t.”

A spokeswoman for the feminist campaign group Woman’s Place UK, said: “Lesbians and gays have fought for years for the right to be open about their sexuality and to date and marry people of the same sex.

“Sadly, this right is now under attack from a homophobic movement that insists lesbians must not only welcome men into their spaces but treat them as potential sexual partners.

“We deplore this attack on lesbians’ rights and hope we see many more lesbian social spaces that are open only to women.”

Eleven pro-Palestine protesters arrested as thousands march to Israeli embassy in London

Police arrested 11 people as thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched near the Israeli embassy on Saturday, amid claims many activists were brandishing anti-Semitic banners.

Scotland Yard said one arrest had been made “on suspicion of support for a proscribed organisation in relation to a placard”, with further arrests made during an incident at Hyde Park Corner.

A man was reportedly arrested for inciting racial hatred after being seen in the crowd with an anti-Semitic placard. When officers went in to make the arrest they were assaulted, leading to more arrests for assaulting an emergency worker.

Two other people were held for refusing to remove face coverings when required to do so by officers under Section 60AA of the Public Order Act.

Officers also made a further arrest at the march in connection with an anti-Semitic placard, bringing the total held to 11 by 4pm.

As the demonstration made its way to the embassy in Kensington, police in Neasden, north west London, stopped a pro-Palestinian car convoy over fears it was heading to areas with a large Jewish community.

Scotland Yard said: “In previous years, similar convoys have driven through areas with significant Jewish communities causing fear for residents. Specialist traffic officers, with the support of the police helicopter, are now monitoring the convoy to ensure there is no repeat of that today.”

Many of the estimated 200,000 marchers held placards proclaiming “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, which is widely seen as a call for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Others brandished banners accusing Israel of genocide.

There were also claims that some of the marchers held placards with symbols showing support for Hamas gunmen, such as one appearing to show a V on a red background in imitation of the terror group’s red triangle symbol.

Another placard, held up by a young woman, read: “I thought Hitler was dead”, next to the star of David, in what some considered an anti-Semitic reference to the Holocaust.

At one stage a small of protesters attacked a man holding a sign describing Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

One threw clods of earth at the solitary counter-protester, who was standing behind a railing.

In an anti-Semitic trope about Jews controlling the media one man held a homemade placard reading: “Wake up our media TV, Radio and Government are controlled by Zionists. Zionist are ruthless, brutal, heartless.”

Other placards compared the government of Israel to Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Several marchers also chanted their support for Houthi rebels in Yemen firing missiles at freight ships in the Red Sea.

The Met police said: “Officers in the operations room are also monitoring the images being shared on social media and details are being passed to officers on the ground as required.”

Among the speakers on the march was Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, who said: “Hang on to your anger, hang on to your enragement, hang on to your horror and use it, use it in the pursuit of justice.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, also spoke, telling the crowd: “We’ve got to carry on. This is the 14th national demonstration and there’s going to be as many more as it takes until there is a ceasefire, until there is justice for the Palestinian people. We’re witnessing something globally horrific in real time on our televisions.”

The Met Police had earlier intervened to prevent the march to the Israeli embassy starting until after a religious service at a synagogue along the route had concluded, although hundreds of pro-Palestine activists gathered nearby before the demonstration set off.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAS) described the choice of route past the synagogue as deliberately intimidating.

The CAS said: “In previous weeks, the marches have included people supporting Hamas and openly flaunting their anti-Jewish racism, and congregants leaving synagogue had to walk through them.”

Protesters were kept more than 100 metres away from the embassy grounds and faced arrest if they moved any closer. A static rally was held near the embassy on Oct 9.

At least 28,663 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its military operation in response to the Oct 7 attacks, when militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage.

Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), said: “The images this week from Israel’s bombardment of Rafah, of children with limbs torn apart, should be seared on the conscience of the world.