Magazine article The Spectator

A Party Split from Top to Toe

Magazine article The Spectator

A Party Split from Top to Toe

Article excerpt

No power on earth can sustain an idea whose time has gone. Can we all please stop pretending that the Conservative party is worth saving or keeping, or that it can ever win another election? This delusion is an obstacle to the creation of a proper pro-British movement, neither bigoted nor politically correct, which is the only hope of ending the present one-party state. The continued existence of the Tory party as a bogeyman with which to frighten dissenters is one of the few things that holds together the equally bankrupt Labour party. Without it, the frequent Blairite cry of 'If you don't back me, the Thatcherites will return' could no longer be used. The Conservative party, in all its shambling ineptitude and pathos, is also a major reason for the growth of the Liberal Democrats, grateful recipients of the anyone-but-the-Tories vote, which is cast for Charles Kennedy not because of what he is but because of what he is not.

The Tories are an impossible coalition of irreconcilables. No coherent government programme could ever unite them, always assuming they were able to win an election. Euro-enthusiast and Eurosceptic cannot compromise without betraying their deepest beliefs, and should not be expected to do so. Supporters of marriage and supporters of the sexual revolution likewise can have no common ground. Supposedly conservative thinkers such as David Willetts cannot earn the praise of Polly Toynbee, as he recently did, without also attracting the loathing of the many who think that children should have the right to be looked after by their own mothers rather than watch them marched off into wage-slavery. Enthusiasts for mass immigration, on the grounds that it expands the workforce, cannot be reconciled with those who fear that immigration on this scale will damage a good and ancient culture. Those who believe in rehabilitating criminals cannot reach an accommodation with those who believe in punishing them. Those who wish to legalise narcotics cannot make peace with those who wish to imprison drug-users. All parties are coalitions full of conflicts, but they need to have something fundamental that unites them despite their quarrels.

The Tory party have no such something. They are institutionally dead, having lost any serious political presence in many of the great cities of the country. They have ceased to be able to pass on their lore and language to a new generation, so that 'Young Conservative' has become either an oxymoron or an unkind way of describing a particular type of desperate eccentric. They do not like to think, and generally refuse to do so because they believe it is safer to avoid such dangerous activity. This is not unreasonable, given the irreconcilable forces that vie with each other for mastery. The few who do think tend to ponder their own survival and seek to suck up to the spirit of the age. The spirit of the age is not very impressed, since it already has quite enough parties devoted to it and suspects that Conservatives do not really have their hearts in the sexual and cultural revolution.

This has actually been going on for a long time, but polite people have preferred not to mention it. Many let the Tories off during the Cold War. They ignored their cowardice over the big social issues, their failure to save or restore the grammar schools, to stand up for marriage, to understand the European issue, to preserve, protect or defend anything old, beloved or beautiful. They pretended not to notice the Tories' yahoo obsession with motor cars and wide new roads, and their strange belief that a vast state-subsidised road network was all in the cause of freedom, while a modest state-subsidised rail network was somehow a threat to the open society.

They looked the other way as Tory governments and local authorities encouraged or permitted the destruction of ancient beauty and supported the construction of tower-block hotels, big office blocks and supermarkets. They swallowed their outrage at the Tories' ugly, expensive - and suicidal - local-government reforms. …

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