Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tories - Modernise or Die?

The FT's Jeane Eaglesham gets the current Cameron dilemma:

"...the modernising ideology crafted by Mr Cameron’s inner circle appears to elicit little enthusiasm from many of his backbenchers, who want to fight on a platform of tax cuts and immigration controls, rather than localism and protecting the NHS."

The question facing the Tory Party is, which path leads to electoral success? The modernising path, or the tax cut and immigration control path? Recent electoral history suggests it is the former, but as David Cameron's lead falls even in the much vaunted marginal seats, one wonders whether the fratricidal strife that has characterised the Tories since the political assassination of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 will once again deny it victory at the polls.

David Cameron leads the Tories at the equivalent point in its opposition history to Neil Kinnock, when he was leader of the Labour Party in 1992. In that year, the derided new Tory Prime Minister, John Major, pulled off a surprise victory, gaining a small governing majority. It wouldn't be much of a leap for Labour hopes today to go from a hung parliament, to a small Labour victory, especially given the electoral system's in-built bias towards them. In such an event, it is quite possible that David Cameron might decide to depart the scene, much as Kinnock did after his (admittedly second by then) election defeat. But the lesson from history - should it decide to be a little repetitive - is not encouraging for the Tory Party. Though Kinnock stood down, his party did not by then seriously doubt the need for continued modernising - the eventual morphing into New Labour. Should David Cameron stand down, he will almost certainly be succeeded by a neo-Thatcherite who will appease the party with the mantra that modernism failed them the election. Such a flawed assessment could doom the one-time 'party of government' to decades of opposition.

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