The hollow men of British politics
Published in: Daily Mail
A poll of voters in the south London borough of Bromley, taken by the Times (£) to gauge support for Labour’s Ken Livingstone and the Conservatives’ Boris Johnson in the London Mayoral contest, is fascinating – not just for what those polled were saying about the two candidates but also about the Tory Prime Minister, David Cameron:
‘“All the time things were going quite well, Mr Cameron seemed quite impressive,” Graham said. “But as soon as they don’t, he doesn’t come across so well...When things go wrong he doesn’t seem to know what to do. He pretends he’s a man of the people but he’s not.”
‘“We need a strong leader, another Margaret Thatcher. At least she had the courage of her convictions. She’s like Boris Johnson, but in a different way. In a dress,” Gary said.’
This chimes with the opinion expressed in the Telegraph by Don Porter, former chairman of the National Conservative Convention and deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Board, who writes that the party has lost sight of its true values and disconnected itself from its grass-roots through a ‘loss of clarity, principle and policy direction’.
Such opinions will undoubtedly be causing concern to the Tory leadership -- but on past form, are unlikely to lead them to draw the right conclusion.
This is that their entire strategy of decontaminating the brand to regain power was totally misconceived. As I have been writing consistently since this strategy was first developed when the Tories under Cameron were in opposition, it was based on a fundamental misreading of why they had lost the previous three general elections, and a corresponding misreading of why Tony Blair had won them.
They thought Blair had kept winning because he had surfed the zeitgeist of lifestyle change, that he wore his emotions on his sleeve, that he was young and hip and relaxed, and that he stood for compassion and caring and a softer, kinder, gentler, more inclusive world. They thought the Tories lost because they were none of those things; that they were old and reactionary and, well, conservative; that they were seen to stand for wealth and privilege; that they seemed heartless and cruel and anally retentive and just plain weird.
The lesson of their loss of power was that Britain had changed and moved socially to the left – and so the Tories also had to move to the left. Hence the whole strategy of hugging hoodies and huskies, embracing the green agenda and gay rights and dying in the last ditch to preserve the National Health Service and overseas aid budget while screwing the armed forces and the police.
This, the Tory modernisers lectured the party, was the only way it would ever win power again. The result? It failed to win the last election which was thought to be unlosable against what was then arguably the most catastrophic and unpopular government in living memory. And so were the modernisers abashed and humbled by this failure? Not a bit of it. The reason they hadn’t won, they told each other and their sycophants in the media, was that they had not been left-wing enough.
They had thus failed to grasp two vital points. The first was that voters had not turned away from the Tories because they weren’t green or gay enough or didn’t wear blue jeans and say ‘Hey, man!’ and strum a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. Voters recoiled from the Tories because they had become a national joke and as such were clearly simply unelectable. They had proved themselves to be utterly incompetent, inept and untrustworthy. And trust -- the character issue -- is the single most important factor behind the choice a voter makes.
Second, the most important point about Blair was that, although he was indeed a latter-day Jacobin in his revolutionary goal of transforming Britain, the world and human nature itself, the pitch by which he had won power was actually to social conservatism with his pledge to make Britain safe again from young hoodlums and to repair the deep social wounds that were driving people apart and destroying the nation’s sense of community and identity.
In short, he won power by appearing to be conservative. Utterly failing to grasp this essential fact, the Conservative leadership decided instead to ditch conservatism for boiler-plate, politically-correct leftism -- which so many voters loathed, despised and feared.
The Cameroons have still not learned their lesson. They throw a few bones such as welfare and education reform to their core constituency to try to keep them on side –– while refusing to see how profoundly all the pc ideology is turning such core voters off. They refuse to see this because they just don’t care about this constituency, for whom their disdain and contempt are all too visible. What they care about instead is de-fanging the BBC in order to prevent it from attacking them; and that means propitiating the BBC’s gods at the Guardian.
Even now that the serial incompetence of the past few weeks -- over the Budget, pasties and party donor debacles -- has turned some of their erstwhile media supporters against them, they still don’t get it. Their fundamental strategic error of repositioning is still falsely reflected back at them as the ‘centre ground’ by the BBC, the Guardian and the Times (which latter paper, as a result, is now in serious danger of finding itself dangerously detached both from its proprietor, who has turned savagely on Cameron -- maybe for other reasons too -- and from the general public, which is able to detect shallowness and falsity in its political leaders at a thousand paces).
This message that a reader has sent me seems to sum this up pretty well:
‘It’s now time to call a halt. I think we've all put up with this nonsense quite long enough.
‘We voted for change. We voted to rid our country of socialism,
of compromise, of personal power and individuals’ self interest in the benefits
of power. We voted to protect our hard won standards, our culture and
traditions and our pride in our unique nationhood. We voted to rid ourselves of
the stench of carpet-bagging Blair and Anglophobe, gravy-train riding, self-serving
‘We did not vote for more of the same with a different coat. In particular we did not vote for a Lib Dem-led coalition. We did not rush to join a group of inconsequential political nonentities. We did not wish upon our impoverished , culturally endangered nation more of the same ; more creeping socialism , more invasive corrosive multicultural zealotry , more dependence on and ever closer sovereign integration with the Eurolosers , an absurd devotion to outrageous Green and overseas aid nonsense and even more of the self-serving economic illiteracy characterised by Clegg and his crew.
‘We tied what remained of our severely damaged hopes wishes and aspirations to the colours of a “new revitalised” Party led by a professed Conservative, a man purporting to have presence on the world stage, a man supposedly of unwavering principle and courage, a protector of our country, our culture and our establishment. Perhaps, we foolishly thought, with this man we will get our country back.
‘Wrong on every count!
‘The well-worn excuse that no party won a clear majority last time will no longer wash. What we see is a party and leadership that lacks any understanding of our priorities and the will and courage to implement them. It simply lacks the spine to win on its own account, and we must suffer the indignity of seeing our vote wasted while obeisance is paid to the insignificant Clegg and his losers.
‘As I said, enough. Like many, many others I am not a “captive vote”, as John Major would testify. The continued presence of the hapless Maude, Letwin and Heseltine should be a constant reminder of what ineptitude and failure look like.
‘The Abstention Party is back in business.’
It’s all about character; and character means principle, consistency and courage. The Cameroons don’t seem to know what any of these even mean.
That’s why the Tories are in such trouble. The Cameroon modernisers are the hollow men, who 'like deceitful jades sink in the trial'.