Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Can anyone lead the Tories?

Mercer, Bercow and Ancram. Sounds like an accountancy firm don't you think?

They must be tearing their hair out at CCHQ. First Mercer and Bercow accept 'advisory' posts from our Gordon and then up pops Michael Ancram to trash Cameron and call for a return to the good old days of Maggie. The problem for Cameron is that lots of ordinary party members across the land will listen to what Ancram is saying and nod vigorously in agreement. The reality is that Ancram is simply stating what many traditional Tories believe, namely that the Cameron led Tory party lacks substance, coherence and conviction. At the dinner held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister, Michael Howard (then leader of the Tory Party) stated: "What you stood for then, we stand for now." Would David Cameron have delivered the same line? I doubt it. Cameron wants to portray himself as ‘new Tory’ not ‘old Tory’ as the ‘heir to Blair’ and not the ‘son of Thatcher.’

The difficulty is that he leads a Tory party that is dominated by members who joined under Thatcher’s leadership, a membership that does not want to move to the centre ground of British politics. It almost makes you feel sorry for Cameron – few people can lead a political party which obstinately refuses to be led. The other major problem for Cameron is the fact that too many of his front bench come from privileged, wealthy backgrounds. For many of the the Eton educated Tory 'toffs' politics is a bit of hobby, something to do in conjunction with few non-executive directorships. The Tory commentator, Tim Montgomerie hit the nail on the head a couple of weeks ago when (writing for the Guardian) he suggested that:

"Too many of David Cameron's frontbenchers are part-timers. It was recently revealed that they hold 115 outside interests between them. They appear to lack the hunger to win that characterised Labour in the 1990s. Senior journalists complain that they hardly receive any calls from Conservative HQ but are constantly briefed by Team Brown."

Contrast 'Team Cameron' with the likes of 'barrow boy' Tories like Heath, Thatcher and even David Davis. Could people like George Osborne or Oliver Letwin ever really have a 'bare knuckled fight' with anyone? Would they have the bottle - or even the desire? I think not.

If (when) Cameron and the Tories lose the next election I think it highly likely that the Tory party will end up tearing itself apart and that we will witness the formation of a new centre-right party (led possibly by Cameron or Nick Herbert) leaving the 'traditional' Conservatives (led by David Davis) to plough a Thatcherite furrow that will eventually lead to electoral oblivion.

It may still be too early to tell but perhaps Gordon Brown was right and the wheels really are beginning to come off the Tory bicycle.

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