Last summer, Janan Ganesh, a Financial Times columnist of South Asian descent, wrote about British frivolity and bad politics. Outsiders, he wrote, “take the country more seriously than it takes itself”. I so agreed with him. Look at me now, writing a column about the hopelessly splintered Conservative Party, and laughing loudly as I do so. Forgive me. This really is no laughing matter. The governing party is dangerously dysfunctional, divided and directionless, tribalised.

The tribes brawl all the time. Rishi Sunak timidly suggested that maybe, big retailers could temporarily cap prices on essential food items like milk and bread. Food inflation is between 15-17 per cent. The tepid suggestion brought upon him the wrath of Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood and other fundamentalist free marketeers, proponents of the survival of the fittest or hardest. The Jungle Tories (JT).

The excoriating book on Boris Johnson by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell, and the alleged new evidence of the ex-PM breaking Covid rules have been all over the media. It’s over for the clown prince, you think. But his coterie is fighting back. And there he was, fresh and merry, at a village fair near his new mansion in Oxfordshire, with his fragrant, pregnant wife, welcomed with great warmth. He reportedly is considering standing in Henley. Tribe Bring Back Boris (BBB) is with him all the way.

Liz Truss was dethroned because she upset the markets. But her allies are still prowling and growling. She flits to various right wing meetings, here and abroad, posturing as the saviour of British conservatism. As Richard Vaughan and Hugo Gye wrote in this paper in February, those backing her revivalist mission leave Sunak “at risk of becoming sandwiched” between the two previous incumbents. A new Tory caucus, The Conservative Growth Group, has been birthed. Trussonomics is their credo. This tribes’ name should be Fatal Attraction (FA).

As more and more Brits give up on Brexit, and Farage does his thing of blaming the Tories, Tory Brextremists become delusionary and furious. Voters who went en masse to the Tories because of Brexit have lost faith. Sunak cannot mollify the European Research Group (ERG), a shrinking collective, yet still influential. They totally oppose Sunak’s Northern Ireland Protocol deal and his dilution of Jacob Rees Mogg’s bill to throw 3,700 EU laws on to a blazing bonfire. Only 800 will now be scrapped. Their tribal name: God Save Brexit (GSB).

All these tribes are anti-immigration but one is on the fanatic fringe. Their figurehead is Suella Braverman whose obsessions and strange passions we all know. Sunak uses her to keep xenophobes on side but fears her visceral power. Hunt, Mr Pragmatic, says little on the issue. These hysterical Tories want to keep out asylum seekers, hard working immigrants needed to prop up the economy and citizens with roots in the old colonies. Let’s call them the Bugger off Migrants (BOM) bloc.

This leads naturally to the Tory racist section. They hate people of colour, including the Prime Minister, Home Secretary, Priti Patel, Kwasi Kwarteng et al, “uppity coloureds” who have taken over “their” country. I have met some of them. They want their party back. They represent Reclaim White Conservatism (RWC).

Apprehensive liberal Tories issue warnings about British Trumpism. Lord Heseltine, Lord Vaizey and Matt Hancock (yes, him, the loathsome one), feel a lurch to the right will lead to decades in the wilderness. Like one-nation Tories, they are seen as losers, but they do have support among southerner urbanites. Shall we call the modernisers No More Nasty Party (NMNP)?

This brings me to anti-woke “patriots” (AWP) who seek to divide old Britons from the young. According to a report by the Onward think-tank, more than a quarter of millennials see the Tories as dishonest, out of touch and incompetent. AWP will carry on regardless. They draw voters who defend colonialism, ethnic Britishness and reject human rights.

A hidden, but immensely powerful section in today’s Tory party are in it for themselves, families and friends. As the writer Peter Oborne observed in The Guardian in 2021: “[They do not] seem to see the British state – as Tories have historically claimed to do – as something to which you dedicate a life of service…[but] as something to be plundered and used for self-enrichment”. I name them the Me, Me, Me Conservatives (MMMC).

Finally, the tribe that has recently been spotted in the thicket. Supported by global retrogrades, it bangs on about family values. At the National Conservativism conference this month, the Tory MP Danny Kruger opined that couples stay married for the sake of children and writer Louise Perry said babies should be cared for by family members, not the state. These backward campaigns never end well. But Tories still carry on pumping them out. Let’s call them The Nostalgics (TN).

Keir Starmer has to deal with two tribes – the left and centre left; Sunak has to hold this motley lot together. He’s weak, caged up with various, ravenous, venal carnivores. As the next election approaches, he will have to pacify the most feral of them, abandon others or be devoured. A small part of me feels sorry for the man. He can’t win and can’t escape.

By admin