There's a part of a Conservative Party, there are still some people who are conservatives, but I don't think it's a Conservative government. I think it's an English nationalist government and I've said in the past, it's unfortunately both populist and unpopular, which is a terrible combination.
Boris, I think, was best described in that report from his housemaster at school Martin Hammond, who was actually a contemporary of mine at Oxford, a brilliant classicist, who became a teacher and eventually a headmaster of Tonbridge, after the City of London I think. But, as housemaster to Boris, he wrote a brilliant, a withering critique for Boris' father in which he said something like "Boris thinks that it's churlish of the rest of us not to realise that he is exceptional and thinks it's appalling that he should be obliged to follow all the same rules that everybody else has to follow." It absolutely summarises the man to the T.
It's a terrible weakness of my party. I think, just as a think that it's worrying for the future that the Republicans and Democrats are in such a bad mess in the United States. So, I think, here it's really sad that the Conservative Party is split between Brexit rightwing Conservatives and others. Every move is determined, as far as the Prime Minister is concerned, by whether it's appealing to his right wing to keep him in office. That's part of the reason for the general sense of seediness and mendacity about the government. So I think all that's true and on the other hand, the Labour Party, I think Starmer is a perfectly decent man but the way the Labour Party at the moment can't give a straight answer to the question whether or not they think the rail strike is a good idea is the fundamental weakness on their part.
So, we're left with an aspiration for a decent, competent, generous-spirited, sensible political force in the middle, which nobody at present is providing.
Well I think what it [Johnson winning the next general elections] would do is to hasten the break-up of the Union. I think that's true of Scotland and England. I think it's probably a threat, given the way in which the Northern Ireland Protocol is being played, terrible playing fast and loose with the most important peace agreement this country has reached in years over Northern Ireland. I think we're talking about the possibility of the break-up of the Union in those circumstances.
I would prefer to see probably a coalition which held the Union together, because I think that’s really in threat. If you want to break up the Union, you send Boris Johnson up to Scotland.
I think for me the Conservatives, unless they change very radically, winning the next election would be a disaster for them and for the rest of us. Because I don’t think we have a Conservative government at the moment, we have an English nationalist government, with all the consequences and one which you can’t trust.
It's doing three things. First of all it's breaching an agreement which it made. At the same as we scold, quite properly, others for breaching perhaps more important agreements but it's very difficult to do that from the pulpit if you're guilty of doing the same thing yourself. Secondly, I think that what it's doing is playing to the DUP and to the right wing of the Conservative Party, rather than trying to do what's in the national interest. It's evidently the case that for a lot of people, a lot of businesses, in Northern Ireland, having the best of both worlds, both being in the Customs Union and the Single Market, and being part of the UK market is a pretty good deal. I think it's also worth pointing out that to play to the hard core in the DUP really is dangerous. You're actually giving in to the mob in a really significant and unattractive way.
It is of course the case that, if they trusted us more, the EU would be prepared to go even further, I think, in negotiating reasonable terms. I think they're prepared to do that to a considerable extent anyway, whether or not they trust us. But the fact that they don't trust us makes it all more difficult. Why should we expect them to trust this government when we don't trust this government.
There is still of course the criticism that if ever you point out the costs of leaving the European Union you're called a Remoaner. What were also dealing with now is what I think you'd call Brexidivism. All those people who were in favour of leaving the European Union who say 'well we didn't mean it to go like this'. You know, like Dan Hannan, 'Oh you know, if it had been done my way it would all have been much easier'. We then have others who say 'Well of course it's unfortunate that the pound has fallen, that it's more difficult to export, that we knocked twice as much off the economy because of Brexit as we did because of Covid, all those things yes, but still we must have Jacob Rees-Mogg hunting for Brexit opportunities'. I mean, what Brexit opportunities?
One day, I'm not sure what my children's generations, my grandchildren's generation will actually negotiate but it cannot make sense to lock yourself out of your closest and most significant market and that's unfortunately what we've done. I was in a queue the other day, going to Europe, I was in a queue with Brits with passports while watching other people heading rapidly through the immigration, hearing people muttering about it. There are costs, not just ones like that but other costs too.
20 June 2022 – Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, Conservative MP from 1979 to 1992, served as Secretary of State for the Environment and Minister for Overseas Development, Conservative Party chairman, governor of Hong Kong, European Commissioner for External Relations, incumbent Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Conservative member of the House of Lords since 2005