Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Tory Party's chance to go forward

With the Tory Party race down to two horses - David Davis and David Cameron (and it all being up to party members now), it is timely to consider what this means for the party that once considered itself the natural party of government in the UK.
While much of the media is treating David Cameron as its darling child, David Davis has upped his campaign by wanting to reduce the size of the British government as a proportion of GDP to below 40%. He also has talked about flat tax, not too seriously mind you, but was floating it. Now the cynic in me says he just wants the votes that went to Liam Fox in the last round – trying to be the right wing candidate. He was never talking much like this before, and frankly I have seen enough conservative/libertarian mainstream party candidates before who disappointed. However, to his credit, he never used the drug issue to get at David Cameron, although it is unclear whether this was because it was more likely to backfire. Davis wouldn’t be bad, he has disowned the bad side of Blairism, the spin, the obfuscation of reality and the nanny statism that it still carries (the latest manifestation being a proposal to require sellers of houses to produce a certificate of fitness or similar so buyers don’t need to get the homes inspected – which, critics say, buyers wont trust anyway!).

Cameron, on the other hand, drips charisma, youth and enthusiasm. He has shown a disdain for mindless authority – his refusal to be drawn into whether or not he inhaled or snorted in his youth, shows some level of maturity. Many old fashioned Tories would have boo’ed him off the stage, before they paid some woman in black leather to dress them in a plaid skirt and stockings and tell them what a naughty girl they are. Cameron’s downside is that he is committed to increasing spending on public services as well as tax cuts – not exactly a trimming of the state, though his message appears to be one the public want to hear.

For me personally, it would be hard to pick between them. Ideologically, Davis is probably in favour of less government than Cameron – but critically, Cameron is more socially liberal than Davis. THAT is something the Tories desperately need. One solution promoted by Davis is for Cameron to be his deputy – there are worse options. Together they would represent a change, and balance each other out – and lets face it, the Tories have quite a majority to overturn to get elected in four to five years time. However, I doubt Davis can overturn it – he might cut it back substantially, but he hasn’t got the “X” factor that Cameron has.

So, reluctantly, I am still convinced David Cameron is the best hope the Tories have – to shed their old Conservative coat and to look less socially anal (and hypocritical). The Tories need to stop playing the closet race card of immigration – which, while a legitimate issue, is seen by too many non-Anglo Saxon migrants, as being racist – a way of tapping the likes who would otherwise support the ultranationalist British National Party. The Tories also need to stop treating homosexuals, single parents and anyone who doesn’t look like they are in a “born to rule” family, like not being worthy of their consideration.

Ironically, despite his Eton background, Cameron is the candidate most likely to do this. I believe with a consistent message, carefully disciplined, the Tories could waltz to victory, albeit a narrow one, at the next UK election. More and more Britons are tiring of Labour’s “tell us what to do” attitude, and Gordon Brown will creep Labour back towards old Labour, and the dynamism of reform that Blair has pursued will wither.

The Tories need this change, it is all they have, otherwise they will die. Blair at the Labour Party Conference this year said “never overestimate the LibDems and never underestimate the Tories” – now it is time for the Tory party membership to prove him right, I just hope that those that are still off their ventilators aren't still wondering why Winston Churchill isn't standing!

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