Monday, May 20, 2013

 

Dave's Attempt to Recast his Party has Clearly Failed

From 1992 when the Lamont tumbkled the UK out of the ERM, Tory poll ratings bumped along at less than a third of the vote right up until David Cameron, with his noteless confference speech, won the chance to remake his party. Following Lord Ashcroft's, corruscating 'Smell the Coffee' report on the party's standing in the country, the Thatcherite Cameron had decided to place himself at the head of a 'modernising' campaign to make the Conservative Party, electable again. Assisted by a handpicked team, many of whom just happened to be old boys of Dave's old school, he plotted a makeover not so dissimilar to Blair's New Labour transformation of the Labour Party.

We saw the cultural distance bridged by extravagant photo shoots and stunts involving trips to the Arctic- strong on the environment; calls for us interpreted as encouragement to hug hoodies- strong on compassion; and an attempt to detoxify the Tory brand as homophobic and uncool. Of course the economic Thatcherism, small statism, low tax and euro-sceptisism were retained. The idea was to keep the core vote onside while extanding the party's appeal to wider expanses of the electorate. The problem was that the Coalition, while ending the party's 13 year power-drought, has also placed the party under immense pressure. The failure of the economy to recover and the cuts in public spending, have done much to alienate voters across the board, while the Tory brand has been retoxified to a worrying degree. Like many parties in a crisis, the Conservatives have fallen back onto their core beliefs and call for more economic austerity and more hostility to the EU. Inevitably party activists are more likiely to do this than MPs who have to be acutely sensitive to how people will vote in reality rather than in theory.

Having seen his modernisation attempt compromised by what he feels are the imperatrives of his austerity startegy, he has tried to maintain his claim to be a compassionate Conservive with his totemic gay marriage bill. The trrouble is Dave's stock has plummeted within his own party, who are beginning to tire of his leadership and are looking to alternatives with names like May or Gove or even Hague. With the additional threat of UKIP washing around the prospects of Tory MPs in marginal seats, Dave has essayed a major push to make his party eurosceptic friendly. The trouble is, making so many concessions to them has made him look weak and no longer in chasrge of his party, as Lord Howe, the slayer of the Leaderene in 1990, said at the weekend. I fear Cameron's great plan to recast his party in a form conguent with the changed society we now live in has foundered upon Osborne's failure to revive the economy and the evidence that, unlike Labour, which began its jounrey into the centre ground with Neil Kinnock after 1987, Cameron has tried to do things too quickly. His party is still locked into thinking that is decades out of date and his chnacesw of winning the next electioon have virtually disappeared.     

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