Three Tory reasons to be cheerful

This is a golden period for Conservatives. Their party is a natural vehicle for the politics and government of the early 21st Century. Who’d a thunk it?

There are three features of modern politics which mean the old party can flourish. 

(1) A new but fissured politics

The political genius of David Cameron is to have seized the most important single fact of change which lay before him.

For a hundred years, politics has been trench warfare between upper and lower classes, capital and labour, salary and wages, property and poverty, dissidence and dominance.

Tony Blair played several of those themes but helped us abandon others. Cameron has gone further: he has ripped up all the remaining class and collision understandings.

Of course, we now face the challenge and opportunity of a fissured politics in which issues will not be readily herded into neatly opposed platforms.

I can see at least one solution and I have argued for it over several years. It is that MPs will be elected and operate as candidates of this or that party but with an understanding of a range of issues on which they will not be party loyalists.

It is a nice idea that the country is basically centre-right or centre-left and that whoever captures one or other of these can then rule. Under such a dispensation, the extremes of left and right would be lively outliers and perhaps have their own flanking parties. In fact, I think, the country is composed of individuals who hold within themselves a multiplicity of views, and parties look like having to accommodate this degree of fissure. 

The Tories are more obviously, naturally and philosophically a broad church of pragmatists than any other party and should thrive in this era.

(2) Making orderly government out of disorderly politics

David Cameron’s biggest electoral mistake was to fail to emphasise an appreciation of the need to re-establish the institutions and habits of representative democracy. His coalition arrangement now makes it far more likely that he will be forced to operate a serious Cabinet, deploy a reinvigorated Civil Service, and surf a far more lively Parliament.

This is all excellent and in a deeply Conservative tradition of loving the business of government within the habits of mind of an evolving constitution. 

(3) the long Conservative moment

The Conservative party is a device to run a capitalist country which is tolerably fair, free and traditional. It usually loses power because its administrations get tired, arrogant and argumentative. I mean that is a natural party of government, but rightly can’t be given a monopoly of power. The worst hazards it faces are those of single party government and are less likely to afflict multi-party arrangements. 

I have no idea how the future will work out, but I think the country is ready to hear about some version of Conservatism, and David Cameron has found most of the right one.

Looking at politics now, it is Labour and the Lib-dems who have the greater problem in finding a narrative. Of course, it is true that the Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour face rather similar problems in working out what their core vote is and how much their “natural” supporters are an advantage to them.

The good news for the Tories now is that their party has a rich capacity for jiving different narratives, and generating new versions of old ones. It has always found people who get the story mostly right, and it just did.

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Publication date

16 May 2010