Thursday, July 21, 2005

more tories trashing the brand

Funny thing, but for some reason I get the feeling that, although the build-up to their imminent leadership election seems to have been going on forever, the Tories are approaching the succession of Michael Howard in quite a sensible way. Had they gone straight into an election battle you'd doubtless have ended up with a Davis vs Cameron, traditional vs moderniser two horse race with not a great deal of discussion, argument or insight.

We'll probably still end up with that two-header, but the lengthy period before nominations open has meant that people who probably can't win the election but whom have something to say about conservatism (Willets, Redwood etc) have the opportunity to stir things up (although the continued silence from Ken Clarke continues to baffle. Clarke, rather mystifyingly - given his reticence to say or do anything thus far - told the Tory Reform Group yesterday that "The more I consider my options, the prospect of my becoming a candidate by the autumn becomes more attractive").

That said, their startling ability to shoot themselves in the foot should never be underestimated. The group of modernisers who arguably represent the party's best chance of turning around their electoral fortunes, seem to be failing in all the respects in which Blair's New Labour project architects were so successful in the early 90s. Back then, Blair managed to reform the party by substituting traditional values for attractive possibilities; the tory reformers just keep reiterating, as they have again today, that the Tory party is in decline.

We know that! Making the case for change is obviously important. But the party doesn't want to change, has no profile and these days only makes the news when it proclaims how useless it is! In as much as I like any tory (ie, not much), I like the realistic, modern instincts of Cameron et al. But all they seem to be able to articulate is their frustration at belonging to a party which doesn't share their values (or their desire to be elected, if you're cynical). That's a shame, because at this rate Davis will win.

Nick Boles, the young Tory who was defeated by Celia Barlow in Hove, is heading up 'C-Change', a new reformist pressure group. If the moderate wing of the party can avoid alienating the bulk of the party, they have a case to make. That said, Boles has "warned that it would take "confrontation, tension and conflict" within the party before it was in fit shape to win again."

Erm, hasn't the Tory party been awash with confrontation, tension and conflict for the majority of the last decade? And where has it got them???

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