OPINION - If the polls are right, soon Tory squabbles won't matter a jot

European Research Group (ERG) chairman Mark Francois (left), and deputy chairman David Jones, speak to the media outside Portcullis House (PA) (PA Wire)
European Research Group (ERG) chairman Mark Francois (left), and deputy chairman David Jones, speak to the media outside Portcullis House (PA) (PA Wire)

What does Mark Francois think? Is this acceptable to Richard Drax? Can we keep Pauline Latham on board? For the last 15 years, these have been important questions, and for good reason.

The internal politics of the Conservative Party determined where spending cuts fell and what kind of Brexit deal – if any – Britain could secure. More than once, the whims of a few thousand party members decided who would be prime minister. No longer.

On Friday, we are likely to wake up (though sleep is strictly optional) to a Labour government with a large majority. Consequently, the nature of public life is going to change. This will precipitate a significant and sudden transformation for victor and vanquished alike.

One reason why the Blair-Brown battles were awarded so many column inches (though, given the severity of the breakdown in relations, it was if anything under-reported) is that for most of New Labour's time in office, both the government and main well of opposition were located inside the governing party. The central cleavage was not between Tory and Labour, but Blairites and Brownites.

Whether Tony Blair could get foundation hospitals or tuition fees through the Commons was determined less by other parties and more by Labour backbenchers, many of whom took their orders directly from the chancellor. Similarly, the coalition government of the early 2010s denied Ed Miliband precious oxygen. Opposition parties can make for an interesting sideshow (see: Labour 2015-2019) but power makes for an almighty magnet.

So look forward soon to diving into long reads about Keir Starmer/Angela Rayner tensions, and whether it is Sue Gray or Morgan McSweeney who have the ear of the leader. Prepare for backbench rebellions over planning reform, or cuts to non-protected departments. Expect the recently sacked and the never promoted to suddenly discover their principled opposition to manifesto commitments. It happens every time.

Housekeeping: You're probably aware that you’ll need photo ID to vote tomorrow. But did you know that the ID can be expired? It reminds me of an old joke from Bill Bryson's Notes from a Big Country.

Flying domestic in the US, the author failed to bring any identification (it was the 1990s). Eventually, at the back of his wallet, he located an old Iowa driver's licence he had forgotten he even had.

"This is expired," the agent sniffed.

“Then I won't ask to drive the plane," Bryson replied.