Members and supporters of the Conservative Party who have a delicate disposition might be best advised to look away now. Perhaps move on to the next article. Or the last article. Or spoil yourselves with our tempting and varied blog-roll to the left. But don’t read on because, for you, this is disturbing stuff:
Although the Government’s reputation is far from having sunk to the depths plumbed by John Major’s government in the mid 1990s, parallels between the two administrations begin to suggest themselves.
That said, it is striking that the Conservatives’ lead over Labour – a mere two percentage points – is so small and that, as the figures in the panel also show, Mr Blair is still preferred by a wide margin to Iain Duncan Smith as the person who “would make the best Prime Minister”.
The Tory Party’s efforts to present Mr Duncan Smith as a more relaxed and confident leader than in the past have so far had negligible public impact. His standing is virtually on a par with that of the Liberal Democrats’ Charles Kennedy.
The section of the chart headed “A Conservative Government?” tells a similar story. The proportion of people saying they would be “delighted” if the Conservatives came to power remains unchanged since the last general election and the proportion saying they would be “dismayed” has actually risen slightly.
Tony Blair and New Labour have now been in power for over six years; their policies are widely judged to have been a failure, Blair’s popularity has plummeted and the party over which he presides is riven with in-fighting. Despite all this, the Conservatives cannot even overtake them in the opinion polls and, anyway you care to stack it up, that is grim news for them.
To my reading, something has gone very badly wrong for the Tories that cuts deeper than a mere downturn in fortunes. By any reasonable reckoning the political pendulum should have swung towards them by now or, at least, it should be showing signs of doing so. The fact that it is still doggedly (though marginally) on the Labour side of the divining line suggests a systemic failure that no amount of analytical contortion can disguise.
Which raises the question of whether the Conservative Party is done for. Yes, finished. Washed-up. Dead men walking and all that. Certainly if Labour wins the next election by anything like a respectable margin (and they could well do so), then it is difficult to imagine the Tories surviving as an institution. Such a vista would have been unimaginable a decade ago. But times change as times are wont to do and the fact that the Conservatives ruled Britain for most of the Twentieth Century is of no help to them now. As they say in the investment world, past performance is no guarantee of future success.
Which raises another question of what (if anything) will replace them? I do believe that something will replace them as Labour would then be left as the establishment that is begging to be challenged. But by what and by whom? Perhaps a genuinely classical liberal party? Perhaps the BNP? The opening paragraph of the linked article hints at all manner of intriguing possibilities:
Signs are emerging that Dr David Kelly’s death and the revelations of the Hutton Inquiry are inflicting substantial damage not just on Tony Blair’s government but on Britain’s entire political class – journalists as well as politicians.
That sound to me like a vacuum. Eventually it will be filled. But by what?
Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.