Thursday, February 02, 2012

Is Britain sleepwalking towards a hard-right future?

What ever happened to ‘Compassionate Conservatism’? The Tory intake of 2010 don’t appear to be the hood-hugging, vote blue go green, compassionate, one nation idealists we were promised by Mr Cameron. The truth is the Tory leader's attempt to ensure that candidates at the last election were selected to reflect the caring and compassionate side of the Tory party spectacularly failed. This, of course, has given heart to the Thatcherite wing of the party and caused the likes of Ken Clarke to ponder where it all went wrong.

In 2009 Conservative Home carried out a survey of Tory PPCs which makes for a sobering re-read. I commented at the time that the questions asked were probably just as interesting as the answers. For example the survey contained not a single question on housing, education or health - apparently the public was more interested in whether Tory candidates supported the right of Catholics or other religious adoption charities to decline to place children with same sex couples. Candidates were asked about Iran but not about Iraq, about nuclear power but not about the need for more renewables.

What happened is that Tory Associations up and down the land selected candidates that reflected their own, traditional - often reactionary – views, having said that Cameron himself has changed. Following the 2007 summer of despair Cameron was warned by his whips that he needed to embrace more "traditional" core Tory issues like Europe, crime and the family. Yet again a newly elected Tory leader was forced (by his own reactionary right wing) to move to the right in an attempt to hang on to the Tory core vote.

Progressive politics? Today’s Tory party is largely Eurosceptic, pretty much pro-nuclear and believes that England does not get a fair deal in terms of the distribution of the nation's finances. What goes around comes around, the hard right is back and we need to expose them for what they are, who they are and what they stand for.

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