Tories want to win… but why?

A short time ago I added a guy called Bill to my blogroll. Bill’s a libertarian Conservative (I think I’ve capitalised that right, although he left the party upon the leadership of the already forgotten IDS) who often finds himself in despair at the state of what was once the most effective election winning machine the democratic world had ever seen (but that’s enough of the complements). And today saw a typically despairing piece asking if the Tories want to win.

The thing is, I don’t think the Tories have to decide whether they want to win – of course they do – but why they want to win and I think the conflict Bill personally feels, mirrors that of the party as a whole.

The conflict is between the ‘New Conservatives’ (the party’s libertarian brain) and the ‘Old Conservatives’ (the party’s authoritarian heart). The first part of the Tory manifesto was launched to a ‘forgetful majority’ of elderly folk, who make up the heart of the party. (To be fair, there are some younger ones, who believe what they read in the Daily Mail.) The agenda is anti-EU, anti-immigration, pro-‘family values’, ID-cards etcetera. Theirs is ‘traditional’ right-wing conservatism, based on ‘common sense’. Suspicious of intellectuals and evidence they prefer to trust their instincts (what others call their prejudices) and they don’t like to be challenged. Pragmatists, they’re unlikely to know what libertarianism is, but since Thatcher (prior to which the Tories were as statist as anyone) have been happy to hand over the economic side of things to people they regard as mere technocrats.

It’s these technocrats that form the minority libertarian wing of the party. Shoehorned in under Thatcher they claim to have revolutionised Britain (although given the current fashion for golden-ageism within the Tory Party, it may be that the Old Conservatives don’t rate that much). They like to pretend Old Conservatism is a thing of the past, but whenever they try to take the initiative they get re-buffed. But they’re hanging in because everybody knows Old Conservatives really are old and they believe the demographics are on their side.

The funny thing is that there’s no debate between these two opposing wings of the party and no serious attempt to form a coherent ideology to bring them together.

Tories: not silent, but forgetful

One thought on “Tories want to win… but why?

  1. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for the mention. You have some interesting comments, although I think they gloss over a rather more complex dilemma. The Conservative Party has traditionally been ‘traditionalist’ of course, but it has rarely been so out of step with aspects of society, although of course in some ways it still speaks to a pretty wide segment of opinion, and not just from within it traditional supporters, but those areas tend to be ones which people tend not to like to talk about, or admit to (I speak about ‘race’ and ‘immigration’, for example); I’d say people with my undogmatic attitude on such matters are pretty rare in the UK as a whole, not just in the Conservative Party.

    I’d also say that whilst the Party was not more ‘liberal’ in the 70s, or even the early 80s, for example, it was certain run by people whom most (even their political contemporaries and opponents) could regard as basically ‘decent’. I think the worst aspects of the recent ‘nastiness’ were removed when IDS got the heave, but of course nastiness and deviousness is NOT the sole preserve of the Conservatives – Labour and the LibDems both do pretty well in those areas.

    I must stop rambling …

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