On Being a “Real Conservative”

Tim Montgomerie, formerly doyen of Conservative home, now at the Times, has returned to his former bailiwick to explain why he’s not joining UKIP. Basically, they’re a bunch of clownish amateurs, however much he likes having his prejudices stroked by them. Despite not wanting to join them, he agrees with much of UKIP’s analysis.

I feel – as many Tories do – that there is a cuckoo in the nest at present and he will be gone on either the day after the next election or a year or two afterwards…

Cameron is, of course, a great deal more popular than his party. Or more accurately, in this current toxic anti-politics mood, less unpopular. Cameron isn’t the problem;  people like Montgomerie (and me…) are the problem. The parties, as they shrink are less the mass movements of ordinary people they once were, but clubs for political obsessives. The Tory fixation with Europe, or the endless Lib-Dem demands for PR as the answer to everything, or Labour’s wibble about predistribution could never happen in a genuinely mass party.

He blames Cameron for failing to win an election against Brown. The UKIPish nutters, obsessed by Europe are far more to blame than the Prime Minister for conservative failure to win an election. The sheer insane kamikaze disloyalty they have shown has crippled the party for nearly two decades.

David Cameron is not a terrible conservative. He’s a little bit conservative in every respect. A little bit of a fiscal conservative. A little bit of a Eurosceptic. A little bit of a reformer. A little bit of a hawk on foreign policy

Montgomerie appears to be complaining that the Prime Minister who has cut state spending faster than any administration since Atlee is not savagely partisan enough. Cameron doesn’t seem to enjoy being conservative enough. And that is the problem.  In the United states, the parties have become utterly polarised. Candidates must appear extreme to win nominations in primaries, then tack to the centre to win an election. Everyone ends up with something they didn’t vote for, which further feeds dissatisfaction with politics. American Politics is utterly toxic and totally dysfunctional as a result, yet too many Tories look at the GOP today, and think “Gosh, I wish we looked like that“.

As parties shrink, they become captured by vested interests: The Labour party is more in hock to the Unions than ever before, a wholly owned subsidiary of Unite. The Tories run the risk of being seen as being a subsidiary of their big-business donors. All this turns off the average voter, who feel, rightly at the moment that none of the parties speak for them. Hence the rise of UKIP, the SNP and the Greens who all have messages which are angry, clear, simplistic and wrong.

The activists, like Montgomerie have to realise it’s they (we…), not the much-derided “political class” who are the problem. Professional politicians have always existed, and the idea the country should be run by amateurs is laughable. Until activists can reach out in the spirit of compromise, seek to speak to people about what the people are interested in, not what the activists think the people ought to be interested in, politics will remain a minority pursuit. Most Tory councillors, who’ve experience of governing get this, but the activists, the enthusiasts, the door-knockers and bloggers who create the mood-music don’t. “How can he think like this? If only he’d be more extreme, then all would be well.

How’s Ed Miliband’s 35% strategy working out?

Montgomerie blames Cameron for the rise of UKIP, which he says

is partly the product of both lousy party management and strategy by the current Tory leadership.

I think a better analogy is UKIP as the Tories’ Militant Tendency. As Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless have shown, the UKIPish backbenchers and activists are utterly unreconcilable – reaching out to them is utterly futile. They got the referendum they claimed to want, but it just encouraged them in to more tantrums of headbanging nuttiness A referendum in 2017? NO WE WANT ONE NEXT WEEK, WITH YOU CAMPAIGNING FOR ‘OUT’!. They have got into the habit of rebellion, and lack the discipline to want to run the country, preferring the masturbatory pleasures of opposition, even while sitting on the Government benches. Compromise isn’t unprincipled. Collective responsibility isn’t dishonest. It’s a recognition that there’s competing interests in the country, and no-one gets everything they want.

There are divisions across the Right in all parts of the world but the lack of internal democracy has forced Tory divisions into the open and many natural Tories out of the party… Robust systems of internal democracy might have meant certain policies that I, personally, support – including equal marriage and the 0.7% aid target – might have been blocked. I would have argued for them but party members and MPs deserve to be consulted more often than at a once-in-a-decade leadership election. Every MP in the next parliament should have a job (running the UK equivalents of Battleground Texas, for example (of which more on another occasion)). There should be an elected Tory board and Chairman with the responsibility to think about the long-term health of the Tory Party. The whole party apparatus should not be obsessed with helping the current leader survive beyond the annual electoral cycle. Fundamental change is needed in party organisation if it is to think long-term about rebuilding in the northern cities, changing the profile of party candidates and – the previous theme – remoralising the Tory brand.

There are some good ideas about decentralising the party, but the problem remains: Tory activists do not look like the country and remain unhealthily obsessed with Europe. The country is socially liberal, the party is (mostly) not. To give too much power to the current ageing activist base risks accelerating the party’s retreat from the electorate, and making it harder to govern – the one thing the electorate agrees on is it cannot stand a split party. The party must reach out first, try to make the activists look a little bit more like the country and learn to compromise again.

Purging the UKIPpers, who’ve been making Tories unelectable since 1992 is a good start.

13 replies
  1. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    Purging the UKIPpers, who've been making Tories unelectable since 1992 is a good start.

    So – you're in favour of the Eurosceptics leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP?

  2. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    a position which includes in(ish)

    So – you're in favour of the out(ish) Eurosceptics leaving the Conservative party and joining UKIP?

  3. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    No, Simon, you black-and-white, binary opinion havin' plonker. I'm in favour of people who're utterly obsessed by the EU, who think it's the Be-all and end-all of Conservative politics, who think that it is impossible to be sceptic, and in favour of remaining in who should fuck off to UKIP.

    Those who will be happy to accept the opinion of the electorate should remain in the Conservative party. As should those who actually want a referendum.

    Tory Euroscepticism includes in-ish and out-ish. The monomaniac obsessives, however should fuck off to UKIP.

  4. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    Actually, Jackart, if you reread my comments it should be apparent that I'm trying to work out where *you* draw the line.

    So far, you've included in-ish and out-ish Eurosceptics as remaining within the Conservative party.

    Your latest comment adds "[t]hose who will be happy to accept the opinion of the electorate… [and] who actually want a referendum." Seriously, this includes not just virtually everyone inside UKIP, but also most of the National Front, the CPGB, and even a fairly large chunk of al-Qa'eda.

    Who are you going to purge?

  5. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    If you think UKIP actually wants a referendum, I've got a fucking bridge to sell you. Why don't they want a referendum? Because they know 'out' would lose. Why would 'out' lose? Because they have become associated with the wankers of UKIP.

    UKIP: The main obstacle to its own stated main aim.

    UKIP: a laughable party of, by and for stupid angry people, grunting monomaniacs and tiresome saloon bar bigots.

  6. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    Cool, I've always wanted a bridge of my own!

    The rest of your last reply is a bit of an exercise in circular logic, mind…

  7. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    If you can't see how UKIP has poisoned the well of reasonable Euroscepticism, then you're stupid enough to vote for the Contemptible cunts.

    Farage is nothing but Vladimir Putin's Vidkun Quisling.

  8. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    Farage is nothing but Vladimir Putin's Vidkun Quisling.

    Godwin. You lose.

    Returning to your proposal to "purge" the Conservative party of those "who've been making Tories unelectable since 1992" – presumably this includes the three "bastards" inside Major's cabinet who made his life so difficult?

  9. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    You don't understand Godwin's law, if the analogy is not spurious. And Farage is not exactly critical of Vladimir Putin, an aggressive dictator who's currently carving up Europe by force. My contempt for this UKIP mental tic is absolute.

    The Bastards, John Redwood for example, are completely satisfied by the current referendum pledge, as UKIP once said it would be.

    To those who're tempted by UKIP, I say 'go now, bye, don't let the door hit your arse on the way out'.

    As for Judas Reckless, well he has 6 more months as an MP. His political career will swirl down the pan for a while longer.

  10. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    On the contrary, I understand Godwin's law a lot better than you do – unless the subject is one in which the Nazis are directly and distinctively relevant (such as politics in Central Europe in the 1930s and 40s, or mass genocide, for example), the person who invokes them loses. I don't have any time for Vladimir Putin, but he hasn't started chucking Jews or Gypsies into gas ovens, as far as I know.

    As for the "bastards" – you said that you wanted to "purge" the party of those who you thought had (by their dissent on Europe) been "making Tories unelectable since 1992". Have you changed your mind?

    Or are you lackwitted enough to think that you can "purge" a party of someone who is no longer a member of it?

  11. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Tories have always occupied the centre ground in British politics, while defending what's good about the status quo. This is, in Scruton's words "conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false"

    As for Putin; his salami-slicing tactics are identical to Hitlers with the Rhineland, Sudetenland, (where we are now, if the analogy holds). Next up is Anschluss (with Belorussia?). Estonia to take the place of Poland.

    In this, Farage is an apologist for Putin. Hence Quisling. UKIP's support for Putin is their most odious mental tic. That alone would prevent me ever voting for them.

    As for the EU, Tories are offering a referendum, and will deliver. If you think Could wriggle out of it, even if he wanted to, you're a moron. You think he wanted a Scottish referendum?

    I despise UKIP, I think they're scum, with laughable, half-baked policies; who're toxifying british politics. The Tories who agree with them should go, and go now. I will continue to ridicule anyone who thinks the Tory party should have anything to do with UKIP.

    "Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government…depart immediately out of this place. Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone!… In the name of God, go!"

  12. Simon Jester
    Simon Jester says:

    But your analogy still fails the distinctiveness test, since such salami-slicing has been practised by various people over the years. You still lose.

    (It also fails internally, since we are not currently under occupation by Russia, and for a number of other reasons I can't be bothered to ennumerate. Godwin – you lose.)

    You are still dodging the question I asked earlier – whether you would "purge" the people that YOU claimed had cost the Tories elections since 1992. So which is it – are you a Stalinist fanatic, or a liar?


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