UK Politics

Tory Troubles

Peter Hitchens writing in the Spectator, doesn’t see any future for the Conservative Party

No power on earth can sustain an idea whose time has gone. Can we all please stop pretending that the Conservative party is worth saving or keeping, or that it can ever win another election?

Like the Communist Party of Great Britain (pre-1991 version) and the Church of England, the problem is that there are two factions in the party whose ideas, Hitchens concludes, can’t exist in one host body.

The Tories are an impossible coalition of irreconcilables. No coherent government programme could ever unite them, always assuming they were able to win an election. Euro-enthusiast and Eurosceptic cannot compromise without betraying their deepest beliefs, and should not be expected to do so. Supporters of marriage and supporters of the sexual revolution likewise can have no common ground. Supposedly conservative thinkers such as David Willetts cannot earn the praise of Polly Toynbee, as he recently did, without also attracting the loathing of the many who think that children should have the right to be looked after by their own mothers rather than watch them marched off into wage-slavery. Enthusiasts for mass immigration, on the grounds that it expands the workforce, cannot be reconciled with those who fear that immigration on this scale will damage a good and ancient culture. Those who believe in rehabilitating criminals cannot reach an accommodation with those who believe in punishing them. Those who wish to legalise narcotics cannot make peace with those who wish to imprison drug-users. All parties are coalitions full of conflicts, but they need to have something fundamental that unites them despite their quarrels.

Personally I think Hitchens exaggerates for effect; think of the wide range of ideas found in the Labour Party which has managed to govern the country relatively successfully for the last six years.

Isn’t it as much a question of party discipline as it is of everyone singing from exactly the same political hymn-sheet ? The Tories had it in the 1980’s and don’t now. Labour have it in relatively larger amounts now than when, in the same period, it was a party full of wreckers and splitters with bad haircuts.

That sort of thinking doesn’t wash with Hitchens. He concludes that it’s time for the Tories to split

The Tory party is a train wreck, not a train, an obstacle rather than a vehicle. There are many good and intelligent people trapped in the twisted ruins who would flourish if only they were released, but are now prevented from doing so by a pointless discipline. There are many voters, currently unable to vote Tory even while holding their noses, who long for a party that speaks for them and the country. Such a party cannot begin to grow until the Tory delusion is dispelled and this movement, whose time is gone, splits and disappears. Let it be soon.