Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Conservatives Should Stop Their Whinging And Rein In Behind David Cameron

The grousy voices from disappointed Tories are already being heard. Both the Observer and the Independent report - rather gleefully - on dissension in the Conservative Party about the way David Cameron ran the campaign. We should have had a majority, go the siren voices of discontent; how did Cameron throw this away?

Only the Conservative right could be quite so self-deluded. The only person standing between the Conservative Party and greater oblivion throughout this parliament, and certainly in this election, was David Cameron. The deep-seated suspicion that many voters still have of Tories has been put on hold while they gave David Cameron a chance to prove things had changed. Michael Portillo, once a hard-line member of the Tory right until his emblematic defeat in 1997, put it eloquently in his Telegraph column on Friday:

In the last parliament the Tories had fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983. It took three elections before Labour recovered from that rout sufficiently to win an overall majority. Cameron was expected to do it in a single leap. He needed a swing of about eight per cent, not unprecedented but rare. Tony Blair managed it, but at no time in recent months has it felt as though a political earthquake was in store.

Cameron’s election performance was pretty good. The gains are superior to those achieved by any party throughout most of the twentieth century. A swing of five to six per cent would usually be hailed as massive. It is better than that accomplished by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 - even though before that election Britain had descended into chaos under Labour.

But let's go further. One of the reasons for the Conservative failure to achieve a majority in this election has been the stubborn failure of Scotland to embrace any Tory candidate. Why? Because the residue of Thatcherism is still remembered in Scotland. If we want to track the reason for the Tories' inability to gain majority status in parliament to any single person, then we ned to track it to Margaret Thatcher herself. It was under Thatcher's 11 year dominance that the Conservatives saw their representation in large areas of the UK diminish and eventually vanish. The cities stopped voting Conservative, so did Scotland and Wales, so did vast swathes of the north of England. This was the toxic legacy of one of the most divisive prime ministers of modern times. It was the legacy that poisoned John Major's attempts to redraw Conservatism . It was the failure to pull away from Thatcherism that doomed the subsequent leaderships of William Hague and Michael Howard. David Cameron's considerable triumph has been to claw Conservatism back into the mainstream, to such a point that some of the historic losses of 1997 have now come back to the party, and they now dominate local government in a way not seen since 1977.

The complaints against David Cameron are the complaints of a recalcitrant group of rightists who have always loathed One Nation Conservatism and all it stands for. They are currently swinging out against the group of Cameron advisers who are the architects of the Conservative revival. Tim Montgomerie, of Conservative Home, has blogged that David Cameron must revive a conversation with the Tory Party? Really? To what end? To see that the grassroots Tories do not have any real association with the concerns and aspirations of the majority of ordinary voters? To hear again that Thatcherite grails such as anti-Europeanism and immigration are the way forward?

It is time that Conservative members realised that David Cameron has given them one last chance at government. It is time they realised that, on the cusp of power, his obligation now has to be to the larger majority of voters who are not party-aligned. Tory members have no divine right to determine the direction of their party's national governance, any more than Labour members or Liberal Democrat members do. Democracy is not about the will of the minority, which is what party members, for all their virtues, are. The last party to succumb to the rampant desires of its unreconstructed membership was the Labour Party of Michael Foot, and that is hardly a place that the revived Conservative Party needs to be. Lay off Cameron and his team - they've brought you nearer to power than any would have thought possible 5 years ago.

UPDATE: Delighted to see the Tory Reform Group, my old stamping ground, issuing a clear statement in support of the idea of coalition with the Lib Dems.

UPDATE 2: Another good post, in support of coalition idea, here on Platform 10.

7 comments:

consultant said...

Nope. David Cameron is a failed leader who can't even deliver a simple majority against one of the most unpopular prime ministers in recent times against the backdrop of the worst recession since the 1930's.

The Tory party must now ditch him and move forward with a leader who will restore the values of its grass roots. Only that way will it ever again make itself attractive to the electorate of this country.

The new leader (I'm thinking maybe one of the really thick ones, like Liam Fox) must make clear that he will be combative and disruptive in Europe, will stop pandering to blacks, gays, women and poor people, will make the swingeing cuts to the NHS, education and the benifits system that millions of hard working Britons cry out for, will gerrymander the constituency map to ensure we never again face the prospect of the Conservatives being out of government, and will deliver tax cuts for those in society who deserve them most (bankers).

The Cameron project has failed. It is time for reactionary renewal in the Conservative party.

GM said...

Thanks consultant, for outlining a Labour dream.

consultant said...

Re. update 2, Skelton is a massive socialist who is about at home in the Tory party as Arthur Scargill would be. I've been fighting a long-running battle to get him to defect to a party he actually agrees with, but in the mean time I would not see his views as in any way representative of a "normal" Tory.

GM said...

We need more progressives in the Tory Party at the moment, so I hope he stays, withstanding your doubtless persuasive wiles.

Anonymous said...

"Rein in" surely?

GM said...

Absolutely right - rein it is! Educational standards really are going down!

consultant said...

I thought it was a subtle pun about the Tories thinking they're born to inherit power.