Monday, April 12, 2010

What do Battersea Power Station and the modern Tory party have in common?

DAVID CAMERON once said that he sometimes feels like shaking Gordon Brown. The Prime Minister need not be too worried, since the Tory leader should be more concerned by his own involuntary quivering. In fact, he has not stopped wobbling for months. In fairness, Cameron’s task is a monumental one. He leads a party desperate for power. Since his election as Tory leader in 2005 (yes, it really was that long ago), he has set out to show he is a winner, that he can modernise his party and restore it to its position as the natural party of government. However, he is now having to come to terms with the fact that initiating and instituting change is a long, slow and often bloody process.

Recent events suggest Cameron may be less the Tory heir to Tony Blair and more like the Conservatives’ equivalent of Neil Kinnock. And that is an unfair comparison. Kinnock ended up helping to make Labour electable again. He was willing to take tough decisions and displayed genuine real leadership in the face of huge and often very hostile opposition. It is easy to forget that the enormous and necessary task of ditching some of the most unpopular Labour policies of the 1980s was carried out, not by Blair and Brown, but by Kinnock. It was Kinnock who first challenged Labour to dump policies and commitments that had helped to create the image of a party soft on crime and addicted to the imposition of punitive taxes.

Cameron regards himself as a politician of the digital age, a bold leader unafraid of taking risks. However, most of the changes he has made to his party have been cosmetic (a new headquarters and a new logo) or short-lived (the “A” list of candidates). Cameron’s Conservatives are made up of the “right kind of people” – his people: privately educated and from a background of immense wealth and privilege. Under Cameron, the Tories still believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of those who embrace their own particular political, economic and social outlook. In 2007, Cameron told his party’s spring conference that it needed to change and the changes needed to be “faster, wider and deeper”. Nearly three years later, change in the Tory Party looks to be slower, narrower and shallower.

Tomorrow the Tories will launch their election manifesto at Battersea Power Station -an impressive structure from the outside but hollow and empty within. When I heard that the Tories have chosen this setting I was reminded of the words of the former Conservative (now Labour) MP Quentin Davies who, in his letter to Cameron outlining his reasons for leaving the Tories to join Labour, Davies wrote: “Under your leadership, the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.”


Anonymous said...

What complete and utter drivel!

Beau Bosvelt said...

How about the privatly educated Labour politicans?