“The Conservative Party mustn’t sound like the old man on the park bench who says things were better in 1985, or 1955, or 1855. – George Osborne
“Before I talk about that new government, let me say something about the one that has just passed. Compared with a decade ago, this country is more open at home and more compassionate abroad and that is something we should all be grateful for.” – David Cameron
The original modernisation project of the Conservative Party, spear-headed by George Osborne and David Cameron was the one in which it was successful. Of course, the party did not emerge with a majority in 2010, but it did in 2015. There is a reason for both of these data points.
Firstly, in 2010, the electorate were (rightly) sceptical about trusting a party which had a record of backward-looking MPs and members who yearned for “the better days”, which had simply evaporated in the globalised economy. In spite of the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression, with an incumbent prime minister with the worst approval ratings for decades, it – with progressive and important messages, failed to win an outright majority in 2010.
It demonstrated itself under the leadership of David Cameron during the 2010-2015 Parliament to be precisely what the country was looking for: A commitment to fiscal discipline, a boosting and successful economy, cutting taxation for the lowest paid (and adopting this in its 2015 manifesto), alongside offering the greatest NHS finance offering of all serious parties, it is hard to argue against the fact that the country was in a better place. For those of us who were progressive conservatives, the policy on same-sex marriage introduced by a Conservative prime minister, alongside policies which attracted BME voters, and a commitment to civil liberties made the party incredibly popular.
The party introduced Help to Buy ISAs, lifted the cap on university numbers, and saw otherwise ignored young people (this is part of what Cameron called “the great ignored”), which in turn saw a majority of them voting for the Torres in 2015. It introduced the National Living Wage. These are great achievements.
It won an outright majority based on these principles in 2015. There was no requirement to impulsively call a referendum on the part of Cameron; in fact, UKIP attracted a vast number of Labour voters in that election — not ours. And I say ours because despite the fact that I am no longer a Conservative, I believed in that Conservative Party: a progressive, liberal party.
It’s worth noting that in 2015, for the first time ever, a majority of BME people, gay people and women voted for the Conservatives. This had never happened in the past: the Party was considered that of the middle-aged white man who had found themselves comfortable. This won’t be repeated, and the 2017 result of blue collar conservatism won’t either.
So many Conservative Members of Parliament who have had their majorities shored up by Brexit voters have forgotten the people who they serve: those in the most vulnerable positions in terms of the Brexit that they desire. Those in marginal seats and who are members of the ERG can’t see that their ideological position of free markets at any cost will result in their once solid voters turning to a socialist stalwart dinosaur.
Forget the Brexit Party, since it won’t send a single MP to the Chamber. Instead, if and when there is a slump, which May has already admitted, or we accidentally fall out of the EU, a recession, who do you think that these people will turn to? Back home to the Labour Party. All governments are blamed for recessions, even if it isn’t their fault. The key difference here is that it will have been ERG members who prevented the deal passing in the first place, so on their heads be it,
Additionally, the party faces an existential crisis. Where does it go post-May? She’s an authoritarian who had soft left economics, but my guess, given the mood in the Parliamentary Conservative Party is that it will adopt where it, now, feels comfortable. It will be reminiscent of Thatcherism
And, on the above, it will fail. There will be no fourth term. It will, once again, fall into a national embarrassment. It will have a leader whose policies are reminiscent of Howard, with all the charisma of IDS.
There is an alternative. Sajid, Justine or Amber could pick up the mantle, but there isn’t an appetite for that in the increasing gammon-like PCP. The ERG will put forward its puppet (expected to be Boris), ignoring all the polling about how he is no longer a viable candidate in the eyes of the public.
I don’t want Britain to have to face a Corbyn administration, and the subsequent cuts which would make austerity look like a feather duster. However, I don’t see any other way to teach these idiots that they are about to suffer a painful period in opposition. And whose fault will it be? Theirs. They had their chance to vote through an eminently sensible Brexit deal as opposed to dragging this out to the point that we are facing a cliff-edge scenario.
Make no mistake. The Conservatives are no longer the party of pragmatism nor business, and sadly for the rest of the electorate, neither is the opposition. But what does happen in times of national crises is that a populist-left or right government win. Britain has had a taste of the latter. It will turn to the former.
What comes after that is whether the Conservatives have adopted a sensible, open and liberal approach as they once did.