HERE is a guessing game for a Sunday morning. Which Tory politician said this, and when? “There’s a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party?”

You would be forgiven for assuming that it was uttered just this week, and probably by one of the many moderate Tories who have been driven out of their party by the Brexit extremists.

David Gauke? Dominic Grieve? Anna Soubry? Wrong. The speaker was the then Tory Party chair, Theresa May, and she said it more than 17 years ago at the 2002 Tory Party conference.

May was admitting the lurch to the right her party had taken under Thatcher and accepting it had resulted not only in losing, by a landslide, the 1997 election under John Major but also in failing to win with William Hague in charge.

But her words had no effect. Even as she spoke her party was concluding its first year with Iain Duncan Smith as leader and within another would decline into further darkness when Michael Howard took over.

It is fair to say that things have not got better since. David Cameron, taking forward the disastrous Brexit referendum, pandered to his party’s worst elements. May herself was deaf to moderate voices and made no attempt to reconcile different views, and when she failed to placate the nastiest of the nasties, she was succeeded by the narrowest and most unsympathetic of them all, Boris Johnson.

General Elections are pitiless in the spotlight they shine. The remorseless exposure of every current word, and many past ones, means that no one can hide from what they really are.

When Jacob Rees-Mogg talks about the Grenfell victims as if they met their fate because they were just not as bright as he thinks he is, he isn’t guilty of a gaffe. He is saying what he actually thinks and revealing a nasty contempt for those he regards as his inferiors. When 25 former and serving councillors (one of whom is a local representative in my own constituency) are suspended from the Tory Party for crude Islamophobia on social media then can we be sure that they haven’t all just been careless in their remarks? We can’t judge for all of them but they should think about the effect when it is visible to the public what they have liked on Facebook, or re-tweeted to their friends and followers.

Every party has within its ranks, alas, those who lack decency and decorum. All of us can, of course, mis-speak or make mistakes, but when there is a clear pattern of unacceptable conduct at the top of a party it tends to set a tone.

So when Boris Johnson talks about Muslim women as looking like “letter boxes” or when he writes about “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, or when he defames whole communities in Liverpool or Scotland, he reveals a truth about what his type of Tory really thinks and about the freedom to say it no matter how much offence and hurt it causes.

That then gives license to others to be as cruelly and crudely insulting as he is. I say “his type of Tory” because there are others. Johnson constantly pretends that he is a patrician, one nation, Conservative, but of course he isnt.

In fact, he is driving out the more civilized and thoughtful representatives and members. They are being replaced by cynical, arrogant Brexiteers whose understanding of “taking back control” is one which rejects civilised debate, humane politics, the benign influence of other cultures and the economic invigoration of inward migration. All they want is the English version of “make America great again” scrawled on a “Vote Boris” baseball cap.

The modern Conservative Party has become what Theresa May feared. By all but merging with the Brexit Party, it has confirmed its pre-eminent position as the “nasty party”. Moreover Johnson deliberately willed it so, in order that he might become Prime Minister.

Fortunately there is a way out for Scotland – independence. Choose that and we need never pay heed to him and his like again.