Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

We want our Conservative Party back


The last couple of days have seen a flurry of commentators from the so-called centre-right press round on David Cameron and George Osborne as out-of-touch public schoolboys who have open contempt for the party they lead.

MPs and activists have grumbled for years that they were being sacrificed by David Cameron to demonstrate to the metropolitan chattering classes that the Conservative Party had “changed” and was no longer the “nasty party” it supposedly once was.

As Iain Martin said in his excellent piece for the Daily Telegraph yesterday, this “modernisation” of the Tory Party has been a “electoral and philosophical dead-end”. It has never been a successful ploy. Let me remind the Tory high command once again: the Conservative Party has not won a General Election since 1992!
And, as I have written before, it will not win the General Election in 2015 unless the leadership start to listen to its core supporters: the thousands of party members and its backbench MPs.

The Conservative side of the coalition has done some good things. Michael Gove is expertly executing the Government’s education policy with the introduction of free-schools with terms and conditions for teachers set by the school not by the Trotskyite local education authorities and Iain Duncan Smith has managed to do what even Thatcher could not achieve by getting the Welfare Reform Act on to the statute book, which, if implemented, will allow work to always pay more than benefits. These two reforms will help to reverse some of the enormous damage inflicted on Great Britain by Labour between 1997 and 2010.

But on the economy, the Government is failing to tackle the mess Gordon Brown left behind. We must go faster and deeper on public spending cuts to reduce the deficit not penalise hard-working people who will get us out of the mess we are in. Public spending is only being taken back to 2005 levels: it was those levels that gave us the biggest deficit in peace-time history and a national debt the size of Greece with only our higher GDP and the fact we are not in the Euro saving us from oblivion.

In the Budget on 21st March, George Osborne had the opportunity to help out the strivers and prudent pensioners who also just happen to be the people who vote Conservative. But instead the “modernisation” agenda took precedent and those very people who contribute so much in taxes, which are frittered away on benefits, non-existent global warming counter-measures and helping the Indians buy fighter jets through our international aid payments, were told to dig deep and give the Government even more of their cash.

The “granny tax”, whereby the personal allowance for pensioners will be frozen from next year, was a policy on a par with Gordon Brown’s doomed 10p tax band removal. Then VAT was whacked on to working people’s lunches with tepid warm pasties and sausage roles being levied with the tax. Do Cameron and Osborne have a political death-wish?

If it wasn’t bad enough that the traditional Tory voter was rubbished by Cameron and his inner circle to demonstrate at dinner parties with Guardian and BBC journalists how thoroughly modern they were, they now think it is a good idea to ignore the same voter now they are in power.

As the old saying goes, you reap what you sow. And so it came to pass when the last week turned into the Government’s week from political hell which started with the Budget and ended with the Conservative vote decreasing by 22% in the Bradford West by-election won by George Galloway.

Traditionally during these tricky weeks, the Government looks to their Party for help. When Cameron and Osborne looked out into Downing Street for assistance, none was forthcoming. Instead of running to their aid the backbench Tory MPs who are ignored by Cameron, whilst he schmoozes up to Nick Clegg, hit back. The centre-right press, who are rarely phoned up by Conservative ministers, went on collective attack, and the party activists started writing letters to the Daily Telegraph saying they were fed up of Cameron and his chums.

Every mainstream paper rubbished George Osborne’s budget, which was easy to do as every measure had been leaked before hand leaving the Chancellor to announce all the bad ideas in one go. And then Unite launched a foray into enemy territory by announcing fuel tanker drivers had voted to put industrial action in their armoury. They didn’t announce a strike but said they might strike at a time of their choosing – but seven days notice is required by law.

Cue the Tory arch-moderniser, Francis Maude. Ironically it was his very unmodern discourse which got him and the Government into trouble. Mr Maude responded to the “cash-for-Cameron” scandal by saying they were only “kitchen suppers” and then proceeded to advise the public they should fill up “their jerry can and store it in their garage”. It may well be Maude’s mouth which sealed the fate of Cameron and his cohorts at the next General Election.  Because it is class which might do for Cameron what sleaze did for Major. As a commentator on Radio 4’s PM said last week, we now know the layout of Maude’s house: he has a dining room but his house is so big he can instead eat his dinner in his kitchen.

In addition, most people in the UK do not have a garage as house prices are so high that relatively well-paid professionals like myself cannot afford to live anywhere other than a terraced row in a provincial town. Therefore, we a) don’t have a jerry can and b) I wouldn’t have anywhere safe to store it anyway.

Maude allowed the chitter-chatter I was used to hearing in the bars at Conservative Party conference to invade the discourse of Government communications to the nation. He has no idea how most people live in this country. This is not how the Conservative Party behaved and spoke when it was winning three elections in a row. People can say (and they do) what they like about Margaret Thatcher but she was from a humble background who knew what it was like to strive to ensure food was put on the table. Her father was a grocer and it was only by marrying wealthy oil man Denis Thatcher she was able to go into politics: she didn’t see it as her destiny unlike some of those occupying Number 10 and 11 Downing Street today. Thatcher never forgot her up-bringing and knew how families went out and worked hard, had to budget for the weekly shop and wanted Government to help them get on in life not hinder them – she knew because she too had to work hard to get on and up. It wasn’t handed to her on a supper plate.

People want a Government to first and foremost to provide the environment for a strong economy through tax and spend policies. Despite what the Guardianistas say they also want to feel proud of their country and our standing in the world. Most people in Britain are conservative with a small ‘c’. Blair knew this and did his best to paint a picture of a Government that understood this but still all the time Brown was stealthily raising taxes and creating an obese client state that was completely reliant on the Labour party to eat and live. Eventually they were rumbled and Labour were driven from office. But Cameron seems to not even care about pretending he understands the British people.

This Government is more interested in counter-measures for non-existent global warming rather than policies to tackle high energy prices. Cameron would rather see our defence forces cut back to the bone than cut international aid to India who then use it to buy French fighter jets.
The “modern” Conservative Party in Government hammers pensioners and workers trying to buy lunch but spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to legalise gay marriage. And to top it all off, a Conservative-led Government wants to bring in a law (actually an EU law) to allow the security services to see every email you send, every tweet you post and every website you visit. Not even Labour dared do that.

Many Conservative voters and Party activists were willing to give Cameron the benefit of the doubt when they wondered was he really one of them during the first five years of his Tory leadership, as long as he won us back power. But when he failed to do this in 2010, Cameron’s blatant dislike of the ordinary party member became more of a kick in the teeth. Despite Labour almost bankrupting the country, the Conservative Party could not win a majority. One reason for this was because David Cameron could not communicate a coherent message on Conservative core values, including patriotism, toughness on crime and a small state, and instead bumbled on about the incoherent big society. There was also another reason: Tory voters could not see a Tory Party to vote for and so stayed at home, which was borne out by the Conservative vote only increasing by 3%.

Back in 2010, the Tory voter was still loyal enough to the Conservative Party to not vote against them. But as we saw in Bradford West last Thursday, the tide has started to turn. George Galloway’s share of the vote (over 50%) and majority over Labour of 10,000 must mean Tories voted for him. Conservatives aren’t just staying at home, they are looking to fringe parties to give Cameron a bloody nose. This alone should deeply worry David Cameron and his liberal elite.

It’s as if the Conservative Party has been invaded and occupied by a foreign force and now we must wait for the uprising to begin. This could come sooner than we think and, as Rafael Behr said in his New Statesman article, when it does the end will be “sudden, unsentimental and brutal”.

Author: gavinmaclure

IT professional; political blogger, former Conservative councillor

4 thoughts on “We want our Conservative Party back

  1. A long and thoughtful treatise on the woes of the Tory leadership Gavin. At first I thought you were going down the wrong path, because I feared you were saying the party lost three General Elections, and failed to win the fourth, against left wing parties by not being right wing enough. But I think you've grasped the nettle accurately enough. The Government's biggest problem is one of presentation. Much of that starts with Osborne, who is far more filled with the lefty Notting Hill set bollocks we despise than Cameron. Cameron may be the vehicle for it in Government, but he IS more a traditional Tory. It is Osborne who is the true believer of this weird touchy feely bollocks and that is part of the reason the country doesn't believe in it – they want politicians who have principles, and Dave doesn't. A complete stranger, a Tory voter, described DC as so oily she's surprised he doesn't slip over. That's his problem. Ours is that our party is being run by two co-chairmen in the House of Lords, and Warsi is bloody useless, Feldman not much better.You might say, if Warsi and Maude are the answer, you've asked the wrong damn question. They are both so out of touch and irritating that neither should be allowed out without a minder. A new use for gaffer tape should be suggested to their "media managers".I think you've drawn the wrong conclusion in Bradford West, although for the right reasons. My reading of Bradford West was that the constituency wanted to bash Ed Miliband. They voted for the candidate most likely to beat Labour. We've seen that happen to us in the past – I remember it happening to us in Bromley when the Labour vote disintegrated and the Lib Dems nearly beat three jobs Bob. The story for the Tories that should come out of Bradford West, and other by elections, is that we have the most dreadful by election team. It was the same here in 2001. They come in, take over, push the local party to the side, don't listen to advice, and then blame local factors when they screw it up.There are a number of reasons we didn't win in 2010 – not enough seats we were close enough to from 2005 for a start – but not being right wing enough wasn't one of them. The problem the party has is one of being seen as out of touch, yet those MPs who genuinely could help with that, like Mike Penning, Jason McCartney or Nigel Adams, David Nuttall, or Bob Stewart, people who have had real lives or real jobs, they aren't put up by CCHQ when the BBC comes calling. Instead we get Maude, or Warsi, or Pickles. Now I like Eric, but he was bloody useless on QT about expenses and he is too fatcat for many of the public. And Grant Shapps may be from a working class background but he looks like a smug SOB.Cameron and Osborne are leading the party into the next GE. Rather than working against them, the Tory Parliamentary party needs to get its act together, work as a bloc to work for a victory in 2015. Its as if they don't want to win an outright majority unless their brand of Tory is in charge. Lets not be stupid here – even Cameron and Osborne are preferable to Milibland or Balls or Cooper.

  2. When my Dad ran his fish and chip shop he had to put VAT on his hot pies while the Baker up the road didn't. Why should someone with a business consisting of one burger van pay VAT while a national company doesn't pay it when they're selling the same product?

  3. Absolutely Kevin. Its not necessarily the policy that is wrong, its the communication of that policy – which is a total bloody disaster.Do any of the people protesting and doing a massive advertising campaign for Gregg's actually understand the rule change? Do they know that the National Federation of Fish Friers supports it? Probably not. They just see their hot pasty or sausage roll getting more expensive.Its the atrocious way these policies are being packaged and promoted that is killing the party in the polls – and in the minds of the public.Even if you look at Tim Montgomerie's attempt today on Conservative Home to come up with 10 reasons to be proud of Cameron, its difficult to agree with all of them. There needs to be a drastic overhaul of the Downing Street operation, some pushing of our better MPs to the front, and a clear strategy to tie everything together. At the moment there is no narrative – they gave up on "we're all in it together" and can't produce a concrete narrative on "jobs and growth". Thankfully its EdM not Tony Blair as leader of the opposition, or we'd be screwed as a Government.

  4. The conservatives have lost because they lack a conservative leader with moral values that does not compromise. I thought this government was going to work hard on the economy, welfare, education, the NHS rather than forcing a legislation and dictating to us everything, Christians have no right to display the symbol of their faith at work and wearing a cross is not a requirement of the faith. It is very scary what is happening in this country and people have started to realize that secularism, in the name of freedom of speech and in the name of freedom of expression of that speech, has brought forth this insane thinking today Liberals HAVE freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but, ANY oppossing views are NOT FREE to express themselves…My questions are:1) Was same-sex marriage in the manifesto of the party at the 2010 General Election? 2) What right has a government to tell a believer what is and what isn't required of them to practice their faith?3) Is the minister with responsibility for equality fit for her job?I believe to 'redefine marriage' won't make a better England, it will only damage society.Gay marriage is something we genuinely want to do, but because of everything that has happened now is not the time.’ This means to reaffirm commitment to a cause that 70% of the nation rejects and that was not in the manifesto of the conservative party. This means totally disregard that the UK is a democracy and that a small minority of activists are ruling this country. The Conservatives will not win the General Election in 2015 unless the leadership proves to be Conservative…

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