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

Monday 20 December 2004

A 'modernised' Tory Party - will it ever happen?

The Herald has an interesting article, part fact-based gossip really, implying that Alan Duncan MP might mount a bid for leadership of the Conservative Party after the next general election, specially if the Party does as badly as many fear it will. (The link to the Herald story above appears to be sticking at present, but this BBC round-up of the Scottish press mentions it briefly - scroll down the page)

Throughout its long history the Conservative Party has 'renewed' occasionally itself by making sometimes gradual, sometimes radical, changes to its policies to keep it in touch with the changing aspirations of the British people; of late, however, it has become stuck, tending to look in on itself, rather than out at the country around it which has moved on. This, in my view, largely explains its malaise - it has been stuck at around 30-33 per cent in the opinion polls for a decade, and it can never hope to get back into government with this level of support. The cause of the malaise is its social policies, as usual, and this time it is these policies as they relate to 'lifestyle' which are the problem. A paradox, really, because if the Conservative Party is anything it is a Party which believes traditionally in individual choice, socially and economically, within a framework of law to ensure that this individual choice does not harm the interests of others. This is very different from the Labour Party, which has always seemed to favour a framework of law to enforce uniformity, although of course they dress up this desire to control and dictate the lives of others as 'equality'.

A few years back I had hopes that the re-invented Michael Portillo was the man to make the change. He had thrown off his earlier image as an ultra-hawk 'darling' of the Party and become something of a Renaissance man - cultured, open-minded, frank, audacious. My eye-opening moment, though, was the reaction in the hall to a speech he gave to the Conservative Party conference in 2000, which I wrote about here (in the 'comment' section of my main website, which pre-dated this blog); the lukewarm reaction he got then was confirmation of my growing disillusionment at the time that the right-wing of the Party was, dramatically, in the ascendant - and which reached its peak (or more properly, a new 'nadir' at the time) after the 2001 general election, when Iain Duncan Smith became leader in September of that year, the Party having decisively rejected Portillo's calls for modernisation.

Alan Duncan certainly has the skills and the presence to make a credible leader; however, he is an 'opnely gay man'. Can the Conservative Party make the decisive leap and elect a man like him as Leader? If it can, then it may finally be on the way back to the mainstream of British politics. I am not particularly optimistic, though, with people such as Tebbit, Widdecombe and Lady O'Cathain still around and very vocal - I live in hope.

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