This Tory failure can become the mother of all successes

Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan – so the saying goes. Losing in politics is a particularly lonely place. For many of my parliamentary colleagues who lost seats, they’ve lost not just their job but also the people they worked with everyday who had become like family. Others will feel they have also lost a sense of purpose.

It’s why I’ve spent the last few days reaching out to colleagues who are no longer MPs. And while many are rightly personally disappointed, they also acknowledge that too many mistakes were made by the party as a whole. Even if many hardworking, decent individual MPs did not deserve to lose their seats, the Conservative Party certainly did not deserve to win.

As the dust settles and the post-election postmortem starts for the party, I hope we don’t rush to blame and instead rush to find answers.

The Conservative Party has just suffered a historic defeat. Our numbers in the House of Commons are the smallest we have ever had. For a party that has governed for most of the last century and the present one, this is a difficult place to be. It’s why we need to accept this defeat with contrition and humility. The electorate overwhelmingly have told us that we do not have the answers to the big issues of our time, and we are not the people they want to be running the country.

We must therefore start the rebuilding exercise by having a period of quiet contemplation and thoughtful evaluation. Self-reflection must override a desire to blame or a lurch to lead.

We need to focus on getting the questions right, not on finding the answers. We need to ask ourselves not just where we went wrong but why we went wrong. We need to ask why we became so factional and fractious, why the wish to lead overrode our duty to serve and why we allowed ourselves to believe that espousing slogans would deliver services.

We don’t need policies; we are not getting ready to form a government, but to form an opposition. We don’t need to provide the answers; our answers to the big issues were rejected by the electorate, as were we. And we need to be gracious in defeat – that starts with being a loyal opposition.

The country needs a period of calm, stable, dare I say, even boring government. And the opposition needs to support that rather than provide drama.

Prime Minister Keir Starmer has started well. A quick appointment of his Cabinet, a Saturday morning Cabinet meeting, a Downing Street press conference and the announcement of an all-nations tour had an air of a new team efficiently getting on with the job. This Cabinet, many from tough and humble beginnings, reflects the values, feel-good factor and belief that this country can offer the opportunities for anyone, irrespective of your start in life, to reach the top. It’s a message of hope much needed after what has felt like a period of entitlement culture.

Some key and unexpected appointments like Richard Hermer KC as attorney general, James Timpson as prisons minister and Sir Patrick Vallance as science minister signal a desire to use experts and hopefully a move back to evidence-based policy making.

The Conservatives should both welcome this and learn from it. Populist slogans didn’t work for the election, and we shouldn’t cling to them in opposition.

We mustn’t oppose everything; we should rightly question, inquire and interrogate the new Government’s decisions but not constantly criticise and take political swipes.

The electorate have chosen them, not us; if we seek to do our job, we must start by respecting that very recent and very clear decision.

And we must rebuild the party. We need to strengthen our core, the central party HQ needs to be restored and resourced, we need to rebuild our membership and rekindle our relationship with the voluntary party, many of whom have been trampled over during recent candidate selections. We need to recruit administrators and organisers before the bright policy minds.

We need to bring back into the fold the colleagues and communities we excluded, marginalised and demonised. We need to build a broad church and reach out to those who still represent us at all levels: town, council and county councillors and members of the Lords. We need to use this defeat and ensure that this failure is the mother of all successes.