<elton>little bit of politics</elton>….
Nick Assinder on IDS’s appalling leadership of the Tories
Matthew Tempest, perhaps predictably taking a broader swipe at the Tories
ITN lists the rebels and abstainers from last night’s vote
Gary Gibbon suggests that IDS’s strategy will buy him neither time nor peace
"If we do not show a semblance of unity, we will be seen as having lost the plot and not fit or worthy to govern."
More links tomorrow, when the dailies have published their editorials.
Didn’t I say the Tories elected the wrong man? Yes, I did.
My opinion (still forming): the Tories are currently not following the right strategy. They say that they want to create policies that “reflect Britain as it is today” and not as it was 20 years ago. But the actions of the leadership do not reflect this intention. The vote on adoption underlined that in the view of electors across the country – the Tory leadership is not aware of the “real” world.
IDS’s handling of the rebellion is also weak. He has not shown that he is a strong and commanding leader with the power to unite his party when he needs to, nor the self-assuredness or strength of character to give his party its head at times (do you see Blair or Kennedy throwing a wobbly when a few members do not follow the party line? and what of IDS’s own track record? it smacks of hipocrisy).
Since the Tories’ humiliation at the polls in 1997, and their subsequent lurch to the right, we have seen the LibDems under the redoubtable, affable and generally likeable Charles Kennedy surge in popularity and fill the middle ground, to such an extent that they seriously threaten the Tories as the main party of opposition. They appear more credible and cohesive. They also have policies and ideologies that are in tune with voters. Not bad for a party with a leader with red hair (remember the last red-haired party leader!).
In my view, unless the Tories adopt a more social liberal conservatism (and you all know who I’m talking about here) – what I always used to believe in as Conservatism when I was younger and voted for them (i.e. small government, allowing people to live their own lives, encouraging entrepreneurism, helping those genuinely in need, robust fiscal policy), and effectively tackle the government’s multitudinous failures (immigration, education, rural affairs – the list goes on) – and not employ a strange mixture of being the government’s hyperactive yes-men (particularly in the field of foreign policy, where the tactic seems to be to agree with everything that the grinning fool says, only more so) one moment, and then disappearing off into a Never Never Land of Daily Mail style politics the next (adoption) – unless they adopt social liberal conservatism, then they will become marginalised and unlikely ever to form a government.
The question is, can the Conservative Party survive? I honestly doubt it, at least not in its present form. Unless there is the chance of the party being successfully led by the “dream team” of Clarke and the now-almost-respectable Portillo (in the roles of leader and chancellor respectively), and if they have the support of the majority of the parliamentary party, then I think it is unlikely. Why? Well, it’s the nature of the beast really – it doesn’t matter if the left or the right of the party have control, the opposing faction will be snapping at their heels the whole time. The party is simply too factional, a situation that has existed since Margaret Thatcher really started to lose the plot, if not long before then if truth be known. There will always be some issue to fight over, be it benefits, spending, social inclusion or, worst of them all, Europe.
The most likely outcome? A split in the party, I believe, into those who are truly right wing (IDS, Howard, Davis, etc. aided by Thatcher and the Chingford Skinhead) on one side and the more centrist members (Clarke, Portillo [although he is fairly right-wing himself, but seems to have developed something of a social conscience], Maude, Heseltine and the suddenly famous Bercow – aided by a few famous former MPs like Chris Patten) on the other. Which will of course mean that neither group will be big enough to form a government on its own, but may be able to wield power in the (pretty unlikely) event of a hung parliament and a coalition, messy and unpleasant as that inevitably will be. In other words, they will only ever be marginal players.
Which leaves a fairly stark choice, one of the few things that IDS has correctly identified: the party must “pull together” or “hang apart”. The question is, pull together behind whom?