Friday, 26 August 2011

The Tory Dilemna

Much has been made of the damage being in coalition may or may not do to the Liberal Democrats. I'm not going to argue about that, though I do take encouragement from the fact that the latest ICM poll, the gold standard in terms of accuracy of making predictions, has us up to 17% in its latest telephone poll - a position scarce any different from where we normally are in the electoral cycle.

But I think something that has been underestimated is the damage the coalition might do to the Conservatives. I think a prime example of this is the recent article by Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome which is dripping with a thwarted sense of entitlement that the nasty Lib Dems are stopping the Conservative manifesto being implemented. Needless to say, this has been causing a great deal of cheer amongst Lib Dems as thwarting the Tories nastiest impulses and implementing liberal policies is exactly why we entered coalition in the first place.

But, far more interesting to me than the whinging of the internet's resident Tory boy, is what this indicates about the Conservative party itself. Tim Montgomerie's views are shared by many of the hard right Tory rank and file and by a lot of the, mainly neo-Thatcherite, latest intake of new Tory MPs. These new MPs in particular are the future leaders of the party. Following on their coattails you will also find the generally hard right new generation of young Conservatives who are currently cutting their teeth in local and student politics. These are people who have either grown up or spent their entire adult lives under a New Labour government where the Tories were in the wilderness years.

Given the assumption by many Tories that they have a God given right to rule, it's hardly surprising that this has led to a Conservative base and next generation of MPs that has reinforced its right wing instincts in the face of 13 years of opposition.

But this will cause serious problems for them in the long run. David Cameron is about as moderate and centrist leader as the Conservative party will ever be able to stomach and in government he is, predictably, proving to be far more right wing than he tried to appear in opposition. But this is not enough for the party's right wing who see him as a pro-Europe, pro-human rights, pro-immigration, pro-criminal, closet-liberal traitor. And yet even David Cameron was unable to convince enough people that the Tories had changed to win a majority.

So, given that this is probably the limit as far as the Tories are willing to go towards the centre, what lies in the future for them? At the moment, I see two possible outcomes. The first is that the coalition continues to outrage and alienate the Tory rank and file to the extent that they kick Cameron out and replace him with a more traditional, right-wing Tory leader. All well and good that as then they'll certainly be unable to win a majority and will remain out of power. The other option is that the Tory right wing become so frustrated with coalition that they will begin to desert the party for alternatives should Cameron remain leader or should he be replaced by yet another moderate. The latter scenario would end up stripping the Tory party of many of the activists and donors it needs in order to perform well in elections.

So, in many ways, I think the last election and the subsequent coalition could quite possibly have signalled the end of the possibility of a Conservative majority government ever again. And, I have to say, that would suit me just fine.


  1. Interesting. I think you may be a little optimistic as far as your notion that the Tories may never form a majority government again. They have this troubling habit of bouncing back.

    You also have to take into consideration that the UK will probably lose Scotland in the not too distant future. If not within the next 5 years at Alex's referendum, at least within the next 20. That will leave the Tories an open goal in England.

    But leaving that aside, you mention that the Tories may ditch Cameron (I agree) for a proper Tory leader (let's hope one with some brain this time). Who do you think is a possibility as a leader... Fox, Redwood, Hague, Thatcher (no, I was only joking...wasn't I?) Could Davies make a comeback? Is there anyone lurking in the new intake that would be ready in a few years' time?

    I'd be interested to know what you think. You're much closer to Westminster politics than I am.

  2. PS: For a laugh (but not so funny when you think about how ghastly most of these peoples' ideas are...)

  3. You may be right that it's somewhat optimistic, but don't forget that the trend over the years has been for less and less people to vote for the two main parties - as this continues then hung parliaments will become more and more likely.

    I would be very surprised if we never had another tory PM but I think it likely that it might well only be in coalition rather than as a tory majority government.

    If Scotland does leave the union then that will obviously change things though I also think that it is unlikely that that will happen within the next five to ten years. That said, hopefully by that point the argument for PR will be won and the unequal distribution of seats under FPTP will have come to an end.

    Either way though, it will definitely be interesting to see.

    And, as it happens, I have read that fantasy cabinet. All I can say is that if we ever had that cabinet then I'd be highly tempted to do a Guy Fawkes >_>

  4. I've just installed iStripper, so I can watch the sexiest virtual strippers on my taskbar.


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