It’s easy to get carried away by the soap opera of politics. The Conservatives’ like to focus on Gordon Brown’s personality, but by the time of the next election most of this year’s hic-ups will have been forgotten (even the Northern Rock crisis) because nobody’s been properly hurt.
What does have longer term implications is Tory leader David Cameron’s search for a new set of Conservative values. The authority vested in him by a commanding lead in the polls is enabling Cameron to drag the Tories ever leftward.
Back in November he travelled to Manchester to launch his Conservative Co-operative Movement and claimed of co-operation, ‘That is my political philosophy in a nutshell.’ It was ‘like Cameron campaigning in Dorset and claiming that his party faithful are the rightful heirs of the Tolpuddle Martyrs,’ said one commentator. The Tories will never be part of that club. The Co-operative movement was founded in Rochdale, a satellite the world’s first industrial city, in response to the excesses of capitalism. The Conservative Co-operative Movement is likely to no more successful that the Conservative Trade Unionists.
Nor will Conservatives ever be identified with progressive values, despite the claims of a rather poorly written piece in the Observer by some Tory pamphleteers, which hinges on the promotion of, ‘a tradition of conservative optimism, exemplified by such leaders as Benjamin Disraeli and Ronald Reagan.’
It all sounds rather flimsy because it is. This language exposes the truth that Conservatives are not associated with optimism, but exist to defend traditional values and the kind of common sense that is too often exposed as prejudice. You cannot be progressive and conservative because progress, by definition, requires change. And progressive politics will always be of the left, because the change they promote is designed to help the have-nots, the victims of market failure and the potential beneficiaries of wealth redistribution.
Cameron’s failure to identify any inspirational values from within the Tory tradition is a guarantee of his long term failure and that the progressive co-operative Conservative Party will live no longer than its current lead in the polls.