Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

Conservative Dilemmas

The Conservative Party is plunged into its by now ritual post-election state of hysteria. While officially, according to the leadership, the result was a success, everyone knows it wasn't. Thirty odd extra MPs sounds better than it is when it is realised the party's share of the vote barely rose from its perennial poll level of one third of voters. It could be that this small degree of success has itself been subversive of the action needed to achieve eventual re-entry into government. A fair proportion of the party will now unconsciously relax and conclude that 'one more heave' will get rid of Labour. True a swing of only 2.5% would now deliver some 40 'supermarginals' to the Opposition but until the Tories can break out of their core vote ghetto they will have difficulties both winning elections and then successfully governing the country.

Arguably the party needed to lose badly as Labour did in 1983 and then 1987, to suffer a trauma and face total meltdown. The article by Tony King in the Daily Telegraph a couple of weeks ago showed how out of touch the party was in the views of voters. In 1997 and 2001 there was an option of root and branch reform via a new leader but the party bottled it in the case of Ken Clarke, still the most compelling Conservative communicator, and then in the case of the remodelled Michael Portillo who, perhaps significantly had suffered a trauma in the form of losing his rock solid seat to Stephen Twigg in 1997. In consequence he made a genuine effort, I believe, to re-examine his beliefs and concluded a more liberal form of Conservatism was necesary for the party to engage with the modern world. How did it work out? Well, you'll recall, Clarke was too pro those awful EU foreigners, of course and Michael? Well, he was a little too, how should we say it for the aged party members? Exotic. Why not choose a sound family man advised Norman Tebbitt? Good, now we've got Iain Duncan Smith.

It seems the rule book will be changed again to exclude the decisive vote of party members, whose age makes them too dyed in the wool,in favour of the more moderate members of the parliamentary party. But there is still no sign as yet, of the fundamental recasting of the party's poverty of relevant ideas which have so cruelly been exposed at the last three elections. Whenever a more liberal agenda is favoured, as it was by Hague and IDS, the inflexible members-average age mid sixties- do all they can to keep the party true to an approach which hearkens back to the eighties and spiritually, I always think, to the cosy false utopia of the fifties. Despite being someone who could never vote Tory I have always felt a decent oppostion is needed for good government and I really would like to see a genuine revival of the Conservatives, if only for this reason.

Comments:
died in the wool should read "dyed in the wool" meaning something you can not get out of somebody ie dyed into the wool rather than a superficial marking.
 
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