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Conservatives up the creek

I suppose it is only to be expected that Iain Duncan Smith would round off the Conservative Conference in Bournemouth with a triumphal assertion that the ‘the Tories are back’. The poor man could hardly do otherwise having presided over a week of fractious in-fighting, broody soul-searching and insurrectionary plots to topple him as leader. He just had to try to end things on an upbeat note and stamp his authority.

But is he right? Like Perry, I think that the answer is ‘no’ and, furthermore, I feel that the situation is unlikely to be improved by any well-spun policy initiatives. The problem for the Conservatives was, in fact, highlighted this last week by their Chairman, Theresa May when she exhorted the assembled party faithful to work to shed their ‘nasty image’. Therein lies the crux of the problem: nobody likes the Conservative because they are popularly seen as being ‘nasty’ and ‘uncaring’, i.e. it is believed that, once in power, they will cut taxes, curtail generous welfare handouts, privatise healthcare and education and stop creating sinecure jobs in the public sector for the competence-challenged.

Now there’s a sublime irony here because, in the event that the Tories ever did ascend the throne again, they are highly unlikely to do any of those things. For sure, about half of the party consists of people who would very much like to do those things but the other half consists of people who would rather stick their genitals in a food blender and press the ‘On’ button before they rocked any boats whatosever, and it’s the latter half that usually wins (as well as being the half that toppled Mrs.T). However, that is not the general perception and, when it comes to voting, its perception that counts.

My own reading of the British public is that they are deeply attached to the Welfare State in all its various manifestations and react with pointed hostility to any suggestion that it should be dismantled or even reformed. It is like trying to take a comfort blanket away from a 250lb baby who can punch your lights out.

Therefore, if the Conservatives wish to pursue a truly radical agenda they not only have to conquer the rotten half of their own party but that they have to try to sell the public a set of deeply unpopular and despised ideas. That is not how you win elections. It is all very well for us libertarians to scoff but we positively thrive on being loathed and feared (well, at least I do) because, after all, we are the real Nasty Party and, what’s more, we really, really, really mean it. Politicians, however, cannot afford the luxury of wallowing in such marginalisation.

All of this leaves the Conservative Party with very little room to manoeuvre. Either they take a leap into electoral darkness of they try to be more Blair than Blair. But, with Blair having somewhat cornered the market in ‘being Blair’ the Tories are in a fix to which no solution readily presents itself and this leaves us all echoing Alice Bachini’s rhetorical lament:

“What, do we want President Blair for the next twenty years?? What are we going to doooo?”

I regret to say that this a vista which we must all contemplate. I honestly see very little on the horizon that could possibly spoil the Regnum Blair but I do know that tomorrow is another day and you never know what it brings.

3 comments to Conservatives up the creek

  • Molly

    Blair forever…Oh god, what a depressing prospect :(

  • Paul Marks

    The Conservative Party as the “party of the public services”.

    Errrr – we already have several such political groups (the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, The Scottish and Welsh nationalists…..).

    “We must give the people what they want”, “we must talk about the things that concern people” and other such comments from senior members of the Conservative Party.

    Politics is not a business, (this is where “Public Choice” goes wrong). If you do not BELIEVE in anything (and just go about trying to please the voters) no one will RESPECT you – and you will LOSE (not win) elections.

    In politics you must decide what you believe (or there is no point being in politics) and then make you case and make it well. Then, if events seem to prove you correct, you win elections. There is no room for another “let us reform the public services” party in Britain (we have several such groups already), there is only room for a “let us reduce the size and scope of the public services” party. If this is NOT what the leaders of the Conservative party believe they should either go and join the Labour party or get out of politics.

    My mind is not what it was, but this stuff is simple even for me. Will someone please find a way of explaining it to the leaders of what is still the offical antistatist party in Britain.

    Paul Marks.

  • I have full sympathy with what Paul Marks is trying to say. Yes, public choice is wrong.
    But then he says something about “politics”.
    But what is politics?
    Politics is the belief, that because you “believe” in something, you have a right to interfere with person, freedom, and property of others,
    for example, “tax the rich till the pips squeek”.
    Politics is a criminla abuse of government power.
    The alternative to “politics” is honest government.