One of the great political mysteries of recent times must be the conversion of the old Conservative and Unionist Party to NuLabour (aka Blairism or the Third Way); David Cameron describing himself as the heir to Blair. Any true blue Conservative would have recoiled at the idea; yet en masse they didn’t and the Long March towards everything they had previously loathed began.
During Labour’s days in power there would have been an attraction for a confused and desperate Conservative Party leadership, with a sense of superiority and entitlement, to adopt an ‘Annie Oakley approach’ (‘Anything you can do, I can do better’). But this looks to have been a Damascene conversion affecting the party’s powerful ruling elite. The true conservative, with any appreciation of history, love of country and its best qualities, and commitment to traditional Conservative values would have seen the need to be wary: of the expansion of state and EU power; the loss of sovereignty and personal liberty; and messing about with long standing adequate institutions. Too many times throughout our country’s history the People have needed to be protected from the government (or rulers) of the day; thus emerged the rule of law and Parliament as means of limiting excesses by the state.
Yet under David Cameron and George Osborne many ‘left wing’ initiatives, the ways of Big authoritarian, spendthrift, image obsessed Government, started under Labour continue. Gordon Brown economics (‘spend ‘til you drop’) became Osborne economics; vanity projects like HS2 and aircraft less carriers continue, the NHS budget is ring fenced and foreign aid largesse hailed for its size, not its effectiveness. Then there is the madness of closing power stations that work reliably to be replaced by costly wind turbines that don’t. Perhaps nothing illustrates the widening credibility gap between words and deeds better than the ‘commitments’ to limit immigration and manage the public finances, both traditional Conservative virtues which continue to run out of effective control. The obsession with staying in the political European Union, however painful and against the National Interest it is, is just a continuation of Tony Blair’s somewhat meaningless desire to be ‘at the heart of Europe’. Now old fashioned Conservative values of: small, prudent government; patriotism and pride in things British; protecting freedom, the realm, the National Interest, heritage and culture; promoting aspirations, self-reliance and free enterprise especially small businesses, have largely disappeared under Big Government initiatives, red tape/bureaucracy and corporatism around the EU and large privileged organisations.
Was the tectonic shift to the left something started by career politicians (in particular the Cameroons) or was it a tide already in flood when their clique gained control of the Party? There is some evidence that this flow existed when Mrs Thatcher was deposed. Once in motion such currents can prove irreversible as ambitious sycophants and increasing numbers of placemen and women, drift along, leaving traditional Tories ‘high and dry’, shunned and even stigmatised.
Today the Party is Tories in Name Only (TINOs). Repeatedly the leadership are openly hostile to traditional Conservatism and cynically condescending towards the rank and file membership still supporting it. The Party and government are run by a privileged and exclusive Establishment. Could the TINOs be imitating a European social democrat model (typically socialism light, EU acquiescent, democracy deficient, cosily corporatist, patronage fuelled)? Or has the Long March much further to go?
So a Toffs’ ruling Establishment party has re-invented itself as a trendy lefty pseudo working persons’ party readily buying into deceit (spin, creative statistics, undeliverable ‘promises’), superficiality, wasteful expenditure, expanding public debt and bullying self-righteous oppressiveness. Naturally it remains clueless how to facilitate generally improving long-term living standards using the best of Conservatism or to effectively tackle major problems affecting us. Worse, it has discovered the usefulness of fear. Why follow democratic accountability, when induced fear (of the other, the unknown or of state power etc.) can be used to manipulate and control electorates, and destroy their traditional freedoms or seize their property?
Fear, sycophancy and loyalty to a defunct image of Conservatism will hold the Party together against the centrifugal forces of ideological fission, dissonance and personal integrity. There are likely to be many examples of minor dysfunctional behaviour from individuals apparently not toeing the Party Line. Disillusioned defections are likely to continue, but not the party faithful defying the new and old party Grandees in droves; such will be damp squibs over EU membership, immigration, defence, tax hikes, expansion of state control, etc. Meanwhile its ruling oligarchy plays with the country, and the real lives of us, the People, ignoring our wishes, hopes and fears, and traditional Conservative values.