Thursday, 17 May 2012

1922 spells resurgant Conservatives

Mr Baldwin, legendary Conservative PM
It would be easy to Caricature the Conservative party as the Galactic Empire, Lord Cameron reporting to Baroness Warsi's throne room at the pinnacle of Millbank towers and being reassured that;

Soon the Rebellion will be crushed and young Clegg will be one of us.

Their MPs an army of grey clones who are desperate to privatise everything and make as much money as humanly possible at all times crushing the will and rights of the common voter but this is simply not the case.

Ed Milliband can spout the platitude Same old Tories... as much as he likes but its just simply not the case.

Prior to 1997 the Conservative Government had not really spent that much time out of power during the Twentieth Century (save from the Liberal administrations of Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith) and had a tireless record of fiscal responsibility where as Labour tended to have a better record on reform having taken over that mantle from the Liberals. Thus a sort of brake and accelerator quickly re-established itself after the turmoil of The First World War and the crash of 29. The Middle ground seemed to evaporate (along with our share of the votes) and a sort of class war was played out and slowly settled.
The Conservative party had no need to change - it only had to play the waiting game before it moved in to retake its seats from Labour four maybe eight years later. You voted Conservative because it was safe and you knew what you were getting.

New Labour posed a problem though. It was like a fuzzy cuddly Conservatism, right but left as well and approaching long overdue reform. Their leader was charismatic and spoke to the people where as Conservative leaders seemed to speak to a bygone age. Haig would have made a fantastic Conservative Prime Minister just not in the late 90s, Ian Duncan Smith and Michal Howard likewise were Conservatives from pre-Blair and had no hope of breaking through the aura that was Tony Blair and talk to you and me.

Something really needed to be addressed and the Conservatives have addressed it. David Cameron was from the same mold as Blair and outshone the old Labour Brown, he offered a brand of Conservatism that sounds a bit like New Labour in its spin. Traditional values that are at the core of the party; a return to traditional values, fiscal responsibility and a big Society stay firm but there seems to be a growing move towards the centre.

2010 brought an influx of Conservative MPs who were not of the same mould and were interested in improving things. This is why the Coalition agreement was so easy to forge and why the Libdem negotiating team worked so well with the Conservative team as they were willing to be flexible (where as David Lawes says Labour were very inflexible and it was Gordon's way or the highway). The road-map of the Agreement is very progressive for a Conservative government that doesn't really need us as much as we think they do and David Cameron and a wedge of these fresh MPs were more than willing to adopt a good chunk of our policies because they shared the views and had similar ideas.

Of course their were wings of the traditional party who were unhappy about the levels of involvement and direction that the party seemed to be heading and that Clegg et al had far too much influence over policy. For them the Coalition was a sell out and almost a perversion of what the party Should stand for. This consisted of traditionalist Conservatives, generally from safe seats like Nadine Dorries who made her feelings about the Libdem involvement very clear and even those from marginal seats like Peter Bone who regaled the House with the opinions of Mrs Bone on a few occasions and her opinion on whether the Deputy Prime Minister might be pulling Mr Cameron's strings.

Last week the Evening Standard ran an editorial written by Matthew D'ancona, saying that the Conservative backbenchers were in trouble and really need to modernise and get with the program if they want to survive. Ditching political dinosaurs and outspoken critics of the Coalition  had to be silenced and ousted and a united front behind Dave was needed for a good public image.

Well... they've done it.

The 1922 committee, a traditional forum for backbench Conservatives to raise their point of view away from the frontbenchers and an arena for policy formation voted in a new committee last night. The majority of new members come from the 301 group (the amount of seats needed for victory in 2015) and old guard Conservatives like Bone and Chope are out of the executive committee! The 301 group appear to be mainly new MPs who are a lot more progressive and break the mold some what.

They want government in 2015 and they are going to continue the Cameron revolution. They've already published Life after the Coalition and now Iron Ladies (a collection of essays from new up and coming female Conservative MPs) and are showing a new set of colours. They are showing the traditional backbone but with a more caring front and dare I say it Liberal way of thinking. More importantly they are getting behind their leader en masse, they don't want to repeat the leadership splits and cracks they suffered under Thatcher and Major.

Labour talk about taking the centre ground - well the Conservatives will steam roller it and only one thing looks set to stop them and that is if the Coalition doesn't achieve economic stability and growth. It appears that both our party's destinies are entwined on this one target. Even then it would be easy for them to blame the Libdems for getting in the way.

As the Tory brand is packaged and sold to a growing audience, which would sky rocket if we can consolidate the deficit, they can afford to lose the far right wingers and "little Englanders" who are a slowly dying breed, to the likes of UKIP and still gain massive support from people in the middle like myself. As a Liberal Democrat I find it concerning that more of our core demographic could be eroded by this but as a political commentator I find it interesting to see the Conservatives branching out like this and will watch them grow and carry on. I think we need to go away and do a similar amount of rethinking as unfortunately Orange Book Liberalism has not achieved the backing we hoped it would from the electorate. Like wise if Labour are really intent on appealing to the masses they need to go away and define themselves and their direction rather than defining themselves as "Not the Coalition - their policies are not ours"

If I could stretch to a prediction, I'd say that if the deficit isn't reached Labour will get in in 2015 in an anti Austerity ticket but I believe that Ed Milliband, who in my opinion isn't much of a leader, and his cabinet will make a bit of a pigs ear of it and a completely rejuvenated Conservative party will landslide in 2020 and hold on to power for a decade at least.

The grand old party is far from dead, its future shows a lot of promise but still is held in check by the deficit.

1 comment:

  1. So if you get the other guys to act so much like you that all your people join them, is that a win or a loss? If the Tories move towards the center and absorb the Lib Dems, and the discontented right splits and becomes the third party instead, the Lib Dems will have essentially put themselves into the coalition permanently. But without their name.