Thursday, October 16, 2003


An Anglocentric diagnosis of why the British Conservatives are so hopeless:
"The Tories claimed to be the party of one nation, representing the interests of all social groups; in the twentieth century, they accused Labour of being 'narrow' and 'sectional'. More often than not, British voters believed them. The Tories were in government, either alone or in coalition, for around 70 years of the twentieth century.... Today's Conservative Party is caught between outmoded traditions and an uncertain future.... When the Tories try pragmatically to adopt the methods and vocabulary of New Labour, though, this often has an even worse effect. For a start, they risk alienating the core upon which they depend. And to everyone else, this approach seems fake and empty.... But while Thatcherism played a role, the collapse of the Tory Party was one part of the story of the collapse of left v right politics - an event that occurred the world over. It was the international defeat of the left, capped by the break-up of the Soviet Union, that revealed the malaise of the right. The right had principally defined itself in terms of what it was against (hence Thatcher's war against the 'enemy within'), rather than what it was for. Once it lost its enemy, the right was left without a mission or direction.... The Tory Party, the most rooted political institution in British history, is now the most rootless. The leadership leaps on to any passing bandwagon, opportunistically trying to score points.

There are some interesting points in the above diagnosis but what it overlooks is that conservatism is alive and well elsewhere -- in the USA and Australia. The British Tories just have to adopt similar policies to those of American Republicans (e.g. tough on crime) and Australia's John Howard (e.g. tough on illegal immigrants) and they too could do well again. They just have to find a non-jellyfish to lead them.

As Chris Brand noted recently:

"On the eve of the UK 'Conservative' Party's annual conference, a nationwide (Populus) poll told them how to win back voters (Times, 4 x 03). Asked what would make them vote Conservative, 46% of Brits said "proposing much tougher sentencing for convicted criminals" and 43% said "presenting a clear plan to reduce the number of asylum-seekers entering Britain." By contrast, only 9% of voters said they would be impressed by "radical policies to restructure the National Health Service" and only 22% were interested in "measures to support marriage and the traditional family.""


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