TORY LEADERSHIP RESULT: Analysis: A New Phrase Begins in the Fight to Become Electable Again

By Macintyre, Donald | The Independent (London, England), September 14, 2001 | Go to article overview
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TORY LEADERSHIP RESULT: Analysis: A New Phrase Begins in the Fight to Become Electable Again


Macintyre, Donald, The Independent (London, England)


IAIN DUNCAN SMITH'S clear victory begins a new phase in the life- and-death struggle of the Tory party to become electable again. What it does not yet mark is anything remotely like the kind of change Labour went through in the 1980s and 1990s.

The first, all-important caveat is that it is very dangerous to prejudge a party leader before he or she has had a chance to lead. There is no doubt that Mr Duncan Smith needed real steel to get this far.

In 1975, Margaret Thatcher was widely written off. History could not have more spectacularly mocked this judgement. It could just be that Mr Duncan Smith will turn out to be the second Neil Kinnock. The man who came to the party from the militant flank of Labour and a personal history of backbench rebellion to drag his party back to the centre where elections are won and lost.

It has to be said that this isn't how it looks at the first glance. Instead, the Tory party appears to have performed the political equivalent of driving on ice: turn in the direction of the skid rather than try to fight it. Whether that works in politics we will have to wait and see.

In this case, it appears very much as if the turn has been, in most respects, to the right. It's entirely true that Mr Duncan Smith proved to be, in the latter stages of his campaign, unexpectedly sensitive to the cause of social liberalism for which some of his supporters denounced Michael Portillo in the parliamentary stages of this campaign. But this is not the only one that distinguishes the right from the centre as well as from the centre left.

Another is the role of the state, which the new leader has already indicated that he envisages as getting smaller, with greater reliance on private provision of health and education. That isn't what the country voted for by a large majority in 2001. The national mood could change, as it has in the past, if the Government is seen to be defeated in its struggle to modernise and improve the public services. But it is agamble, as Mr Duncan Smith knows.

The second issue is Europe, which Mr Duncan Smith recently indicated he saw as the dominant one in British politics. It appears to have played a decisive part in his victory.

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TORY LEADERSHIP RESULT: Analysis: A New Phrase Begins in the Fight to Become Electable Again
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