Opinion: A frightening party of selfishness and reactionism

As the Tories gather for their conference, it is very tempting to suspect that, despite the Cameron makeover of the party, they are still unreconstructed hateful fire-breathers underneath.

Just look at a couple straws in the wind which have re-emerged in the last few days.

It is tempting to think that the old “posh” Tories still exist. That basically the Conservative party is the party of the rich. Does the bumbling Eric Pickles flat-cap schmooze-over mean anything? No, it would seem if you look at what the Tory party regards as a “typical family”. Extrapolations on Liberal Conspiracy reveal that the Conservatives regard such a family as “having an annual income in excess of £67,000 a year and a £260,000+ house, both of which make Mr. and Mrs. Typical-Tory amongst the 20% most wealthy people in England”.

It is also tempting to think of the Tories as unreconstructed right wingers – xenophobes and Europhobes. Well on that score it seems that Cameron isn’t even trying to put up even a pretence of a makeover. Just look at one winner and one loser from the Tory strategy on Europe.

A winner – Roberts Zile, the leader of Latvia’s right-wing For Fatherland and Freedom party, who will be feted at the Tory conference in Manchester this week. There has been much trading of insults on this issue by Messrs Miliband and Hague. For an objective view, you need only go to Peter Beaumont’s excellent article in the Guardian today, which concludes:

What is most shocking, perhaps, in this whole story is the intellectual and moral laziness of senior Tories. And the fact that they are so little troubled at being associated with a foreign party that associates itself – for whatever reason of nationalism and history – with Hitler’s Schutzstaffel: the SS.

A loser – While the Tories suck up to East European extreme right-wingers in Manchester, consider one poor fellow left out in the cold. Edward Macmillan-Scott. ‘Who he?’ – You cry. Well, in many ways he is totemic. He is Mr Moderate Pro-Europe Conservative. The Conservative party used to be full of them. Edward Heath. Margaret Thatcher even (before she went all funny). Now though (with the rare exception of old brown suede shoes himself, Kenneth Clarke), they are shunned.

And there is no greater living, breathing emblem of that frightening shift rightwards than Mr Macmillan-Scott. Only three months after being elected as a Conservative MEP he was expelled from the party. And what did he do? He had the temerity to put himself up as a (successful) candidate as Vice-President of the European Parliament. This was in opposition to the official candidate of the ECR group (of whom the Tories are now members) who was a right wing Pole.

So, as you consider the Tories in Manchester popping the champagne corks with Mr Zile and co, and laughing down their noses at anyone on less than £67,000 plus a year, consider, out in the cold, standing in the shadows, Mr Macmillan-Scott. In many ways he was the face of the last vestige of reasonableness (on Europe at least) in the Tory party and his exclusion has thrown into the sharp relief the remaining Tory party.

A frightening party of selfishness and reactionism.

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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24 Comments

  • I’m sorry, but articles like this just confirm that we will lose seats at the next election.

    We have to realise that the world has changed – that no matter how much we would like the Tories to be evil baby-eating b’stards, they aren’t all like that and, more importantly, Mr and Mrs Average Voter don’t think like that either. Cameron is popular and ranting like this just makes us look sour.

    Somebody somewhere needs to get a grip, acknowledge that the world has changed, and get on with producing popular liberal policies for us to put before the electorate. The perhaps we will, and deserve to, do well electorally.

  • Chris Keating 3rd Oct '09 - 6:12pm

    Much as I like bashing Tories – Liberal Conspiracy’s figures ‘proving’ the Tories think the average household is super-rich are nonsense, if you read them…

  • David Heigham 3rd Oct '09 - 7:57pm

    Cameron’s problem is his Party, much as Niel Kinnock’s used to be. Bashing them is unnecessary. Just help them to show themselves fully as they are.

  • Lost LibDem 3rd Oct '09 - 7:59pm

    I agree with Tabman and Chris, nobody is interested in all this tribal stuff any more. This is exactly where Gordon Brown has got himself cornered and now he is labelled as just a political nasty by the media. Its not as if this sort of approach is working in the opinion polls is it?

    All that should be promoted in the lead up to the election is policies, policies, policies…. but they have to be well thought out and argued. Lead on policy not innuendo!

  • Martin Kinsella 3rd Oct '09 - 8:00pm

    Are you aware it is not 1997. We are not out there trying to hoover up seats from the Tories. It surprises me that we are not going hell for leather after Labour at the moment as well as the Tories. We need equi-distance from both parties and not be parading ourselves as Labour lite or doing their bidding for them.

    Oh, the Latvian governments take on the SS legion.

    http://www.am.gov.lv/en/latvia/history/legion/

  • David Allen 4th Oct '09 - 11:29pm

    Paul, your problem is that you are telling an inconvenient truth. Since Mr and Mrs Average Voter are obsessed with their hatred for Gordon to the exclusion of all other thought, we must all follow them in thinking that way.

    We modern politicians follow the lowest common denominator of public opinion, we don’t attempt to give leadership, that’s so last century.

    Come 2011, the Tories will have proved you right, but by that time, nobody will remember.

  • David Allen, Paul Walter – if you want to indulge your obsession for attacking the Tories, I suggest you take some tips from Vince on how to do it with style.

    I also challenge both of you to come up with a critical argument of Labour couched in the same terms as the article above, to be published here.

  • David Allen: “We modern politicians follow the lowest common denominator of public opinion, we don’t attempt to give leadership, that’s so last century. ”

    Note I called for “Somebody somewhere … to get a grip, acknowledge that the world has changed, and get on with producing popular liberal policies for us to put before the electorate. The perhaps we will, and deserve to, do well electorally.”

  • Paul Walter – “Why? I quite like the Labour party as a whole.”

    Attituides like that are why we’re in the mess we are in today. If someone in 2003 had sat down and looked at the totally illiberal direction of the Labour Party (ID cards, Iraq, top-down centralisation) and started working on a 2-elections trategy to replace them when they eventually fell from grace, we would be looking at 100 MPs at the next election instead of 45.

    It also allows our Conservative enemies to free rein to use terms like “Vote Yellow Get Brown” or “We are the only way you can get rid of Labour”. It makes me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration. Labour are as much a part of the problem in our politics as the Conservatives – not least on their continual reneging on their election manifesto promise to hold a referendum on elctoral reform.

    If you “quite like Labour” – join the Labour Party.

  • Rankersbo: “Sure we should attack Labour on their faults, but we should not drop our guard on the Tories.”

    But that’s the point – where are the attacks on Labour? Instead, we get the admission that Mr Walter “quite like[s] Labour.”

    That way electoral suicide lies – apart from the fact that Labour are not Liberal and have an awful lot to be critical of.

  • “Labour are not Liberal and have an awful lot to be critical of.”

    [hangs head in shame] “of which we can be critical”.

  • Very pleased to hear it. Although anyone still in the Labour Party has to be counted as misguided at the very best.

  • David Allen 5th Oct '09 - 1:14pm

    Tabman,

    Sure, Paul’s piece is too shrill to make a good election leaflet. In Paul’s defence, he wasn’t writing an election leaflet. He was telling LDV readers some home truths.

    No doubt the claim that Hitler was about to slaughter six million would have been far too shrill and undiplomatic for use in a 1930s German political campaign. It would not have resonated. This does not mean it would have been wrong to raise the issue.

    Don’t forget that George W Bush won election in 2000 as a “Compassionate Conservative”, who appeared to be falling off the leftmost end of the Republican Party spectrum, but somehow managed to avoid being pinned down to any very major policy commitments. Remind you of anyone?

  • David Allen. All this “Tories eat babies” is good knockabout for the party faithful, but ATEOTD we have to get serious about Labour if we’re actually, y’know, going to win any seats. The Tories are not the answer to any question you would care to ask, but too many voters are going straight from red to blue without even thinking about yellow. We need to give them a good reason to look at us, and jumping up and down and saying” but .. but … the Tories are really BAD! Thatcher! Cuts!” isn’t going to cut any ice. The 1980s was over 20 years ago. We need to be looking at the problems of today (and who caused them, and why our answers are the best).

    Any political message we put out should follow this meme:

    – Labour’s policy has failed because X

    – Our approach would fix it because Y

    – The Conservative alternative is more of the same / doen’t address the real issue because Z

  • David Allen 5th Oct '09 - 2:32pm

    Hmm. Too often our meme is:

    – Labour’s policy has failed because X

    – Our approach would fix it because Y

    – The Conservative alternative is basically much the same, so why bother thinking about us?

  • Its hardly the leadership’s fault that Cameron and Co are triangulating in on our vote. There’s no point in advocating “radical and distinctive” policies if they’re rubbish.

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