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Lee Cain predicts ‘Carthaginian defeat’ for Tories

Lee Cain speaks to UnHerd

May 23, 2024 - 7:00am

Lee Cain, the mastermind alongside Dominic Cummings of Boris Johnson’s 2019 election victory, has predicted a “Carthaginian defeat” for the Conservatives — a reference to the complete destruction of Carthage by the Romans in 146 BC.

Speaking on an UnHerd emergency discussion yesterday afternoon after the announcement of 4 July as the date for the UK general election, he said: “Hope has long since left. It’s a Carthaginian defeat for the Conservatives.”

“In 1997 we had things can only get better,” Cain told Freddie Sayers and Tom McTague. “There might be a perception in Number 10 that things can only get worse.” He added: “We’ve got a difficult summer with more small boats likely to come at the tail end; NHS waiting lists are still very difficult and will probably get worse again — so with the good inflation news today they might be thinking this is a small landing zone where we might just be in the best space. But there are not a huge amount of positive options [sic].”

 

Asked if he blames voters for abandoning the Tories, Cain said that he understands their disappointment. “I was one of the strategists in 2019, and at that point the country was promised change — and significant change. And you have to look back and say, as a party, we have not delivered the change people wanted […] People have really lost faith in politicians’ ability to deliver for them.”

Pressed on whether his friend Dominic Cummings’s new “Startup Party” could emerge from the ruins of the mainstream parties, Cain said: “I would never count Dominic out. If anyone can do it he can. If Labour do not deliver in the first year or two, and the public are looking at what’s left [….] people will start looking elsewhere.” But, he went on, “there’s a big difference between getting 15-20% of the polls and shaping an election.”

The former Number 10 communications director, referred to as “Premier Lee” while effectively running the country during Boris Johnson’s incapacity with Covid-19 in 2020, now believes that the Conservatives and Labour are equivalent to a uniparty.

“There’s very little between the parties. Keir and Rishi are two sides of the same coin, in many ways,” he claimed. “They’re both good, decent, intelligent, hard-working men who aren’t naturally the most political. And that’s been a problem for both.”

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, lacked vision and purpose, according to Cain. “It comes fundamentally down to: do you want to do something? Do you have a project to deliver?” he said. “Whatever people think of Dominic, he had an ideology, he had a vision for the country. Boris didn’t have a very clear ideological view of what he wanted the country to look like in ten years time. I think he felt very much that it didn’t need a huge amount of change and we could move along.”

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago

People have really lost faith in politicians’ ability to deliver for them
That’s because politicians actually don’t have any ‘ability to deliver for them’. They can’t create prosperity because that conflicts with climate goals. They can’t fix the housing crisis because that would mean an immigration policy at odds with international commitments. They can’t fix the NHS because the vested interests are too powerful. They can’t fix crime because the measures required, such as stop-and-search, are racist. They can’t reduce the regulatory burden on small business because, having no experience at the coalface themselves, none of them have any clue how to go about it.
We face a future in which every government will lose office in a landslide because they simply haven’t got anywhere near delivering on any of their promises.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I think the real landslide will be in the number of people who have better things to do on 4 Jul than go and vote for any of these non entities.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

It was said in the 70s that the UK was facing an Argentinian future. Yo-yoing between governments failing on the rocks of vested interests and authoritarian governments attempting to take back control but ultimately taking back control for themselves. And all the while, economic decay continuing at a pace.

Perhaps we do face an Argentinian future. Albeit without a decent football team and wine.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Well, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait as long as the Argentinians did for someone to come along and fix things. Not optimistic though – things had to be almost terminal before they were prepared to consider a change of direction.

Alan Tonkyn
Alan Tonkyn
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I think that there is a lot of truth in what Hugh Bryant has said here. I despair when politicians talk about ‘delivering change’, or some such nonsense, because, as HB points out, their room for manoeuvre is so heavily limited by circumstances which they don’t have the ability, or the will, or both, to change. They probably need to admit that ‘net zero’ within a shortish time-frame is a fantasy, and that we need to look at adapting to climate change while seeing how we can gradually, and sustainably, reduce the use of fossil fuels without driving our country and others into utter destitution. They need to be a lot tougher on illegal immigration, being willing to back out of international commitments made at a time when modern mass migrations were much less possible. They also need to reduce legal migration, used as a short-term fix in many areas by lazy governments and employers. On the NHS, yes, ‘vested interests’ are a road-block on the way to real reform, but we are also to blame. We have been willing to swallow the comforting lie that we can go on getting a ‘world class’ health service throughout the country, and free for all treatments at the point of delivery, while facing an ageing population and a proliferation of ever more expensive medicines and interventions. At some point a government will have to be brave enough to tell us that it can’t be done and that we will need to take more responsibility for funding our health and late life care (or some aspects of both), and skilful enough to manage a transition to a new funding system without punishing vulnerable people too heavily. With regard to crime, it has to be admitted that family breakdown (particularly bad in the UK), is a source of crime, poor educational outcomes and anti-social behaviour which governments have less power to influence, but making prison more spartan (but not brutal) and, yes, stricter and more fearless enforcement of stop-and-search would probably help to reduce crime rates. Knife-carriers should go straight to prison, and prospective career criminals should not be helped on their way to a life of crime by minimal initial punishments. All in all, we need statesmen and -women rather than mere politicians, but we need also ourselves to be willing to hear honest conversations about the state of the nation and what can, and should, be done to turn things around, and the sacrifices we will have to make. I don’t see anyone in key leadership positions in our politics at present who is willing to have those honest conversations with us.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Alan Tonkyn

Pity you didn’t make Rishi’s speech. You nailed it and saved me lots of phone typing.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Well said.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

They could have done so many things:
Make it illegal for any one entering illegally to achieve citizenship – ever.

Leave the European courtLeave the World court – US isn’t a member

Build high speed rail from Liverpool to Hull and up to Newcastle and Glasgow.
Abolish DEI from all public institutionsAbolish the LEAs – power to head teachers like that amazing woman in London whose name I forgot (toughest teacher in the world)
Defund BS disciplines at universiti9esMassive shift of funding to high tech trade colleges
ZERO tax for families with more than 4 kids where parents are married and remain married
end fault free divorce
Large tax breaks for grandparents living with kids and grandkids (saves money on elder care, child care, keeps families, builds social capital and reduces number of households – win win win win)
End subsidies for kids studying away from home. Incentives for kids to stay with parents during university – increase social cohesion/capital of provincial towns, keep families together…..reintegrate intergenerational family
Much higher pay for soldiers – but more use of soldiers to do public works where necessary make homeschooling easier
Deregulate and de-tax all farm gate/front door domestic production and sales – to kickstart a yeoman economy of small producers
Put parents in charge of schools with parents – fund children not schools. Competition

Deregulate HE – allow start up universities…..Zero regulation. REal competition
complete moratorium on Muslim immigration until social attitudes in line with rest of country
coercive social integration for social cohesioncomplete break with multiculturalism – multi-ethnic FINE multi culturalism NOT FINE – we need a shared culture ….and from schooling upwards all state interventions should be designed to create this.
History curricula designed to celebrate cohesive achievements of British society
Seriously – it would be so easy to craft a truly radical conservative agenda. What is wrong with them?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  General Store

What is wrong with them?
They’re not conservatives. Love your program though. If only.

Penny Rose
Penny Rose
1 month ago

Hasn’t the Cartheginian defeat already happened? Tony Blair demolished the institutions and salted the ground.

Phil Day
Phil Day
1 month ago
Reply to  Penny Rose

Good way of putting it, he certainly gave future generations a huge mountain to overcome and l fear Starmer will finish the job.
1000 years to build this country generation on generation and only 25 to throw it away along with the dreams and advantages our descendants should have had.

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil Day

But it’ll be a nice part of the Umma. Can’t wait for the fajr adhan to blast from a million poor-quality loudspeakers from sea to shining sea every dawn.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

Bacon sarnie before morning prayers or after?

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Might just come down to which has the better rates on the jizya. Well, if you’re not slaughtered mid-bite.

Rob N
Rob N
1 month ago

““Carthaginian defeat” for the Conservatives”. Terrible though Labour will be I have to hope for a Punic defeat for the Cons. Only with that is there any chance of getting an actual Conservative party; though it will probably be too late by then. Apologies to my poor descendants.

Guy Aston
Guy Aston
30 days ago
Reply to  Rob N

Cannae for the Conservatives?

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
1 month ago

Lee Cain predicts ‘Carthaginian defeat’ for Tories
That prediction should probably be taken with a grain of salt.

Robbie K
Robbie K
1 month ago

Whatever people think of Dominic, he had an ideology, he had a vision for the country.

He did? I don’t recall hearing anything about that. It somehow fills me with dread.

R Wright
R Wright
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

It was the only thing I really liked about him. He knows that the problems with this country start with the Blob, the Civil Service, the quangocracy, the NGOs, ‘uman rights. Until you fix all of them with one fell swoop you can’t sort out anything else. Cummings’ problem was that he was forced out before he got a chance to do anything, and Johnson spent the rest of his premiership being hen-pecked by his moronic wife.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Cummings’s problem was that, while a great campaigner, he had no idea how to make things happen in government. The Cabinet Secretary had him neutered within minutes of him entering No. 10. Then, when the pandemic arrived, he was blinded by “the science”.

Daoud Fakhri
Daoud Fakhri
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Cummings is an awful man: he was an enthusiastic supporter of lockdowns and other restrictions on our liberties. He is as contemptuous of freedom and the idea that the state should be subservient to the individual, rather than the reverse, as are the progressives and left-wingers he professes to dislike.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago
Reply to  R Wright

Exactly how do you fix all those things in one fell swoop?

He’s not Pol Pot.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago
Reply to  Robbie K

I think he had a bunch of Tarantino-esque lines and a studied malevolence.

But does that amount to any sort of practical vision?

Doubt it.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 month ago

In what way did Lee Cain mastermind the preceding three years of poisonous manoeuvring by parliament to reverse the referendum or for that matter mastermind the Boris Johnson persona or indeed mastermind Boris becoming leader and Corbyn leading Labour? The 2019 general election was settled the way it was for an enormous number of social, political, economic, and personality factors already well established before strategists started meeting with the established media to stroke each other’s egos. The masterminding abilities of Cain and Cummings was exposed for the hype it was when they were given real responsibility with clear accountability to deliver and failed in the most disastrous fashion possible – for us. What hasn’t failed is their continued ability to self-promote.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Political masterminds are a bit like wonder drugs. Factor 8 anyone?

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

The mastermind behind Bojo’s 2019 win was Jeremy Corbyn. Cain, Cummings and Bluster were aiming at an open goal. Even their, subsequently proven, ineptitude couldn’t fail with that.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  j watson

The mastermind behind Bojo’s 2019 win was Jeremy Corbyn
Yes – Jez simply wasn’t a good enough liar to be a successful Labour leader.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 month ago

Agree with it or not, Boris had a very clear vision for his term in office. PM speech in Greenwich: 3 February 2020 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Covid and his own illness derailed it and once Rishi and others got started with Partygate the Government’s bandwidth for gettingit back on track vanished.

Deb Grant
Deb Grant
1 month ago

Has Cain forgotten about the headwinds of Covid, war and resulting energy price spike affecting all prices? Has he forgotten that his Brexit peeled away a lot of moderate Tories and has no chance of showing any short term benefits? Has he not noticed the workshy post-Covid indigenous workforce?

No Government, let alone Starmer’s wolf in sheep’s clothing Labour could’ve fixed any of that. It has nothing for the future but even higher taxes.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago

I’ve just listened to the discussion on the UnHerd podcast, and I’m truly gob smacked. If Lee represented the radical project, it’s really not surprising that it failed, and that they lost. Neither he nor comings and certainly not Boris Johnson ever had a project. There was clearly no vision. There was clearly no willingness at all to follow through after the election. It’s astonishing and his justification of the Covid policy when it’s clear that Sweden, and not the rest of the EU got it right shows a lack of humility and honesty the really goes to the heart of the political failure. I think this interview and this article I have depressed me more than anything I’ve heard in the last two years . We are truly screwed because there is nobody on the political right that actually has any conception of what it would take to turn the country round.