Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 2 August 2002

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and his increasingly-irrelevant Party attract yet more devastating criticism

The opinion pieces about the travails of the Conservative Party and its leader continue apace. Just in time to allow him to depart on his summer hols.

Alice Miles, writing in The Times, provides a devastating analysis of the contradictions and dilemmas which face the Party and its leadership; the appearance of change is simply not enough – real change is what is required, however unpalatable it is to some.

Over at the Spectator, Norman Tebbit (now Lord Tebbit), a former Chairman of the Party and erstwhile senior Cabinet minister writes in his usual forthright manner. Even though a lot of what he says makes a great deal of sense (I can hardly believe I am writing this!), it is mixed in with a lot of the prejudices and out of date thinking for which he is notorious – he more and more sounds like an old man telling and retelling the same old stories about how things were years ago when he was someone of some real importance (which he no longer is). People like Lord Tebbit continue to remind people of just how different from the bulk of the population is the ‘modern’ Conservative Party. I very much doubt whether enough of the electorate will think it a good idea to trust them with government for them to stand any chance of returning to power for many years yet.

The Conservative Party still has to decide who it is for – it still seems to be against too many people. Its pleas that it is an ‘inclsusive’ Party are so patently absurd that a hollow laugh is the only realistic response. Policy reviews are all very well, but one of these days these reviews are going to have to reach conclusions - and reach some broad decisions about policies which can take it forward to renewed success (it can fill in the detail nearer the next election). The Party must change not only the way it presents itself (how it sounds and looks), but this must be acceptable to a broader segment of the population than at present, even if some of the existing support base (people like Lord Tebbit, for example) find it difficult to follow.
Can Iain Duncan Smith survive as leader of the Conservative Party? And can the Conservative party survive with him as its leader?

There is a very interesting article today in the Daily Telegraph by Rachel Sylvester, questioning the likelihood of Mr Duncan Smith remaining leader. One quote (which rings very true with me): "The truth is Iain knows with his head that we've got to modernise but in his heart he's a traditionalist," one shadow cabinet minister told me yesterday. "He's dithering and it's time for him to come off the fence."

The Guardian carries another opinion piece today by Ed Vaisey, which makes many of the same points but of course emphasising, as a left-of-centre newspaper, the left-right dichotomy of British politics.