Brentwood Tory grandee in Freddie Mercury-inspired warning over challenges facing party

A grandee of the Tory party – who represented Brentwood for more than 25 years – says the party must adapt or “face oblivion”.

But Eric Pickles has added that all parties have failed to dispel unrealistic economic and political goals by paraphrasing a Freddie Mercury lyric – “I want it all and I want it now”.

The words come on the back of an wqhistoric defeat for the Conservative Party – albeit one which returned the number of MPs at the upper end of his own predictions.

The veteran former MP for Brentwood – now Lord Pickles – has since warned his party not to assume this is “rock bottom” and “we could face oblivion at the next election”.

He has also urged to avoid blaming Reform UK for losses. Reform took five seats. The Lib Dems gained 63. He warns “There are now no safe seats”.

Lord Pickles wrote on X that the “Conservative Party is only successful when it is a broad collection of the centre-right” and it should take time picking the party’s next leader, starting the process at its annual conference on September 29 and ending it in late November.

Among those MPs with possible ambitions to become the next leader are Essex MPs Kemi Badenoch and Priti Patel – said by Lord Pickles to both have “good credentials to lead the Conservative Party, among with a number of other people.”

He said: “You can be right wing but still bring in people from the wider family of the Conservative Party.

“Clearly we are going to have to – in terms of the long term damage – win back those seats we lost to the Liberal Democrats that should be part of our normal bedrock.

“So we need people who can appeal deep into Liberal Democrat territory as well as partly into Reform territory.”

But he also said it was a failure of all parties to explain the realities of economic and political goals – drawing on Queen’s I Want It All to make the point.

He said: “The majority of British people don’t follow the left or the right – they follow Freddie Mercury – they want it all and they want it now.

“They want good public services but they don’t actually want to pay for it. They want to have their cake and eat it.

“And I think that is the fault of politicians. For too long Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and latterly Reform have promised everything without explaining the economic world we live in and the intense competition we face from other countries.”

He said initially the party must prove its competency and rebuild – starting with the premises that “it must unambiguously set its moral compass in the direction of public service, obligation and duty firmly based on the Nolan Principles of Public Life – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.”

He added: “The Conservative party has a choice – they can either face oblivion or adapt. And the hard truth is for too long we have been obsessed with who voted for what in Brexit.

“And we have found ways of dividing our party rather than uniting it.

“We have to recognise that not everyone in the Conservative party is going to agree on everything. And it is a success being able to manage that.

“Thatcher would be regarded as a right wing prime minister but always understood that and always made sure her cabinet had to be balanced and always made sure her policies were balanced.”

Lord Pickles added: “I don’t have a preference for who it should be. All I want them to demonstrate to me is they can go beyond their own political spectrum and talk to the whole of the Conservative Party – but more than that to speak all of the electorate.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter