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How the Tories can survive the wilderness There are lessons to be gleaned from 1997


August 1, 2023   5 mins

It may be difficult to believe, but when John Major’s tired and sleazy administration suffered a shattering defeat at the hands of Tony Blair’s New Labour in 1997, many Tories weren’t all that worried. Beneath the hype, they believed Blair was really a bit of a lightweight — a slick salesman who would, sooner rather than later, fall flat on his face. Hobbled by the socialist dinosaurs that still held sway behind the scenes, Blair and his colleagues would fail to rise to the task of running the country, at which point voters would return, as per, to Britain’s “natural party of government”.

As one rather less complacent insider once put it to me, the Conservatives effectively “behaved like a disappointed middle-aged wife whose husband’s just run off with his PA and thinks: ‘Well, give it three or four months and when he needs his socks darned and a home-cooked meal, he’ll come crawling back, begging for forgiveness.’”

It didn’t happen, of course. Blair went on to win two more general elections and it took the Tories the best part of a decade-and-a-half to make it back into Downing Street — and even then, without a majority to call their own. So hapless was the Tory party’s initial response that it arguably offers one of the best guides to what-not-to-do for any political party booted out of office.

With the Tories facing the prospect of another sojourn in political wilderness after next year’s election, the current crop of Conservatives should be trying to learn their lessons from 1997. If what happens next is anything like the period from 1997-2005, after which the Tories eventually took a punt on a shiny young moderniser called David Cameron, then they’re in for seven years of seriously bad luck.

Anyone who thinks that a huge defeat would be a wake-up call for the Tory party should think again. The atmosphere post-1997 was one of complacency, especially among smug Tory MPs who had managed to hold onto their seats and put their defeat down to a temporary swing of the political pendulum.

Of course, the rational thing for a defeated party to do would be to conduct a comprehensive post-mortem; perhaps one overseen by former MPs who lost their seats or have no intention of running again. But since when has politics been a rational business, or one untainted by overweening ambition?

A defeated party is far more likely to jump straight into a leadership contest (especially these days, when defeated prime ministers tend not to stick around). That almost inevitably involves the candidates telling the selectorate exactly what they want to hear. In 1997, for example, Tory leadership candidate William Hague told the party faithful that Labour only won the election because it had accepted the Thatcherite settlement. The only thing the Tories needed to reassess, he reassured them, was their creaky organisation not their outworn market-liberal ideology.

Defeated parties can also be far too reluctant to face up to the fact they’ve made a duff choice after rushing into a leadership contest — even when opinion polls make it clear that the public thinks their new leader is a hopeless loser. It was obvious within weeks, days even, that the Tories had lumbered themselves with a dud not just in 1997 but in 2001 too, when they replaced William Hague with Iain Duncan Smith. But it took years to get rid of them.

In political exile, opposition parties tend also to worry (not unreasonably) that donations are going to dry up, making them excessively wary about spending money on expensive, in-depth research into public opinion. This leaves them trying to put right what they think they got wrong rather than realising what their real mistakes were — not a great basis for making a comeback.

All that research and innovation takes time as well as money, however. Easily one of the worst things about being in opposition, as veterans won’t hesitate to tell you, is that voters and the media don’t care much about you anymore. But trying to make them take notice by adopting headline-grabbing, populist positions is a dangerous game. For one thing, it makes you look desperate. For another, it leads to parties adopting potentially stupid stances that they will struggle to row back on and prioritising attention-seeking stunts: whether it’s an ill-advised photo shoot — Hague’s team wearing cagoules and baseball caps as they splash down a theme-park log ride springs horrifically to mind — or, in the case of Duncan Smith, insisting the party oppose adoption by same-sex couples.

Just as bad, opposition parties have a tendency to double down on issues that are assumed to play well for them, rather than engaging with the issues of the day. This is especially true when the economy is strong, as was the case between 1997 and 2005, when the Tories fell back on the so-called “Tebbit trinity” of tax cuts, Europe and immigration. It’s not that these issues don’t matter, but they are unlikely to appeal to voters more than the promise of rising living standards and visibly improving public services (particularly “schools n’ hospitals”).

Another temptation that a recently defeated party can fall prey to is to look back with excessive pride on all the supposedly great things they did in government, believing they have nothing to apologise for. Adopting New Labour strategist Philip Gould’s “concede and move on” mantra would be a much better course of action — a lesson not lost on Keir Starmer, who lately has seemed prepared to throw pretty much any commitment overboard if polling and focus groups suggest that it’s a problem. But that requires an ability to let go, that, especially in the early days, defeated politicians find it incredibly hard to demonstrate.

Even harder for politicians is to face the fact that it’s almost impossible to shape voter preferences when you’re in opposition. Rightly or wrongly, that means accommodating them — moving to where they actually are, rather than where you’d like or imagine them to be. Anyone who doesn’t get this is best sidelined in shadow cabinet. That said, it’s never a good look if wounded big beasts aren’t brought on board; Ken Clarke in 1997 and Michael Portillo in 2001 are stand-out examples.

Perhaps the final lesson for opposition is not to allow success in so-called “second order elections” (by-elections, local elections, and referendums) to fool you into thinking you’re on the right track. At the locals in May 2000, Hague’s Tories gained nearly 600 seats, and yet polls later that summer showed Labour streets ahead. Which was the better guide to the 2001 election result?

The Tories aren’t guaranteed to learn from their 1997 mistakes — especially given the tactics Rishi Sunak has adopted ahead of next year’s election. With the economy failing to come to his rescue, Sunak looks set to play as many populist, anti-woke and “green-crap” cards as he can in order to stop the party being deserted by voters who are feeling the cost-of-living crisis and seeing public services come under serious strain. Even if his strategy ends in defeat, it’s not clear that the rest of the party will get the message. We’re far more likely to see a central-casting culture-warrior like Kemi Badenoch take power instead, perhaps after beating Penny Mordaunt in a race that could see all the serious contestants up the populist ante by pledging to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights. If so, it’ll be dĂ©jĂ  vu with the Conservatives, as they did for nearly a decade after 1997, looking obsessive, irrelevant and, sometimes just plain nasty.

There is, though, some hope for all those Tories praying that their party hasn’t entirely abandoned the mainstream centre-right. And it lies in Badenoch’s response to criticism from backbench Tory MPs over what they saw as her failure, last month, to purge each and every bit of retained EU legislation from the UK’s statute book. “I am not an arsonist, I’m a Conservative,” she shot back, suggesting that there may, in fact, be rather more to Badenoch than meets the eye.

Anyone wanting to see the Tories spend as little time out of office as possible after 2024 should pray that’s the case. If voters do decide to cast the Conservative Party into the wilderness next year, then the last thing it will need is a leader wedded to the same quasi-austerity and performative populism that it’s currently foisting on the country. As Winston Churchill, one of the party’s more successful leaders of the opposition, is routinely reported to have said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”


Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and Director of the Mile End Institute.

ProfTimBale

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Frankly, I’m getting sick of all the diatribes against populism. The author is telling me my opinion doesn’t matter – the elites will figure it out for me. It’s a condescending slap in the face.

And it you’re going to do it, at least try to be consistent. In one breath, the author argues that; “adopting headline-grabbing, populist positions is a dangerous game.”

Shortly later he argues; “
that it’s almost impossible to shape voter preferences when you’re in opposition. Rightly or wrongly, that means accommodating them — moving to where they actually are.”

Here’s my advice to the Tories. Listen to the people and create a positive vision. Don’t consult polls. Meet people at their door. Show contrition for the bone-headed policies of the past. Build stuff. Quit tearing stuff down.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I agree. It’s boring hearing for the millionth time that populism is uniquely evil. I see populism (and demagoguery) more as a style rather than ideology, and in some contexts it is justifiable. Elites are inevitable in society. However, we currently have rotten elites, so until a better alternative elite forms, the best approach for the British right (and the right in most developed countries) is to appeal to the working and lower middle classes over the head of the liberal-left professional classes.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Totally agree. Elites are a fact of life. We need them and they will always be there. The problem is with the elites who rule the west today – they talk about nonsense, they are completely insulated from real life and they don’t build things.

The idea that a populist will get elected and create some authoritarian regime is fantasy. Populism will create change when traditional parties absorb their views and adopt policies that benefit all members of society.

j watson
j watson
10 months ago

On your last point ML, arguably the problem for the Right is this will run counter to neo-liberal economics and thus a much more fundamental ideological fault-line the Tories will have to grapple with to appeal to this constituent. That same constituent did not support Brexit because it wanted more neo-liberalism and free market economics and the Brexit rallying card cannot be used again. Woke and culture wars are almost a comfort blanket that delays the real confrontation of ideas for the Tories.
That said the reason the Tories survived so long as a Party is adaptability. In time they’ll adapt. Power more important to them than Hayekian purity.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

You’re correct. Boris won a large majority largely because he campaigned on moving away from the neoliberal economics that has run Britain for 40 years. The fact the Tories dumped him for a Thatcher tribute act in Truss followed by Sunak shows they never really grasped this. Either party that could release a manifesto leaning slightly left economically while being socially conservative would be into a winner

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, except that Boris’ campaign was fake, without a conservative bone in his body and a desire to spend as much as possible without any idea of creating the wealth to make this possible.

Martin Terrell
Martin Terrell
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, except that Boris’ campaign was fake, without a conservative bone in his body and a desire to spend as much as possible without any idea of creating the wealth to make this possible.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

As you say the Tories are adaptable. In the 1880s-90s, 1920-30s and 1950s the Tories pursued an electorally successful kind of populism. In each era the approach did differ a bit but in all cases the Tories were offering neither socialism nor radical economic liberalism.

Last edited 10 months ago by Martin Layfield
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

You’re correct. Boris won a large majority largely because he campaigned on moving away from the neoliberal economics that has run Britain for 40 years. The fact the Tories dumped him for a Thatcher tribute act in Truss followed by Sunak shows they never really grasped this. Either party that could release a manifesto leaning slightly left economically while being socially conservative would be into a winner

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

As you say the Tories are adaptable. In the 1880s-90s, 1920-30s and 1950s the Tories pursued an electorally successful kind of populism. In each era the approach did differ a bit but in all cases the Tories were offering neither socialism nor radical economic liberalism.

Last edited 10 months ago by Martin Layfield
Alan Osband
Alan Osband
10 months ago

I hate the kind of populism you find in Hampstead and Nottinghill and other ‘ghettos’ inhabited by blond women who mouth off the rancid prejudices of middle class progressives .

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Totally agree. Elites are a fact of life. We need them and they will always be there. The problem is with the elites who rule the west today – they talk about nonsense, they are completely insulated from real life and they don’t build things.

The idea that a populist will get elected and create some authoritarian regime is fantasy. Populism will create change when traditional parties absorb their views and adopt policies that benefit all members of society.

j watson
j watson
10 months ago

On your last point ML, arguably the problem for the Right is this will run counter to neo-liberal economics and thus a much more fundamental ideological fault-line the Tories will have to grapple with to appeal to this constituent. That same constituent did not support Brexit because it wanted more neo-liberalism and free market economics and the Brexit rallying card cannot be used again. Woke and culture wars are almost a comfort blanket that delays the real confrontation of ideas for the Tories.
That said the reason the Tories survived so long as a Party is adaptability. In time they’ll adapt. Power more important to them than Hayekian purity.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
10 months ago

I hate the kind of populism you find in Hampstead and Nottinghill and other ‘ghettos’ inhabited by blond women who mouth off the rancid prejudices of middle class progressives .

j watson
j watson
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Now JV you yourself are prone to chucking around the phrase ‘Progressives’ in an ill defined, lazy ‘catch all’ fashion too, but that said I concur the same applies to the use of ‘Populism’ by some Authors.
If ‘Populism’ is defined as slogans or rhetoric that conveys an intention without honesty on cost or consequences in order to garner support then I think not an unreasonable point to extol that such an approach likely to create even greater disengagement medium/long term. But it is over-used and quality writers will define what they mean by it first.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

And some progressives are also populists.
These are all lazy terms. It may once have been argued that stereotypes in political discourse were useful to prevent constant qualification of the terms in use, but the muddying of the waters this past decade has left a vast amount of terminology useless at best and divisive at worst.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I think this is totally fair JW. I do paint much too broad a brush with my frequent use of the term progressive. I acknowledged this in what I consider was a thoughtful response to your comments on another thread, but our benevolent leaders here at Unherd decided to delete a bunch of posts.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

And some progressives are also populists.
These are all lazy terms. It may once have been argued that stereotypes in political discourse were useful to prevent constant qualification of the terms in use, but the muddying of the waters this past decade has left a vast amount of terminology useless at best and divisive at worst.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I think this is totally fair JW. I do paint much too broad a brush with my frequent use of the term progressive. I acknowledged this in what I consider was a thoughtful response to your comments on another thread, but our benevolent leaders here at Unherd decided to delete a bunch of posts.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Where does he say anything bad about populism? He has warned that moving to the extremities is unlikely to see you re-elected in Britain any time soon, and in that he is absolutely correct. Most elections are won by being centre left or centre right, depending on the mood of the electorate at the time.
The very quote you have chosen to highlight “Rightly or wrongly, that means accommodating them — moving to where they actually are.” in fact states the exact opposite of the point you originally made about being told your opinion doesn’t matter. The author is saying parties need to listen to the voters if the want to win subsequent elections.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The author refers to populism repeatedly throughout the essay.

“With the economy failing to come to his rescue, Sunak looks set to play as many populist, anti-woke and “green-crap” cards as he can in order to stop the party being deserted by voters who are feeling the cost-of-living crisis and seeing public services come under serious strain.”

Just one example.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Populism as most people understand the term would be fringe parties or policies that don’t enjoy the support of the what has been the mainstream parties, so I can’t see a problem with using the word in the context the writer has

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Populism as most people understand the term would be fringe parties or policies that don’t enjoy the support of the what has been the mainstream parties, so I can’t see a problem with using the word in the context the writer has

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The author refers to populism repeatedly throughout the essay.

“With the economy failing to come to his rescue, Sunak looks set to play as many populist, anti-woke and “green-crap” cards as he can in order to stop the party being deserted by voters who are feeling the cost-of-living crisis and seeing public services come under serious strain.”

Just one example.

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Indeed. I can see that one can term as populist, policies that contain internal contradictions, or implausible goals, such that they cannot be enacted, but that is not how the word is invariably deployed. Put simply, it is used to denote ideas that are popular, but to which the author does not subscribe – Usually out of self-interest.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think the poisonous combination of alliance with the wretched Lib Dems and the incontinent proto socialism of the Fool Johnson and Furlo Sunak has shifted the Tories SO far to the Left of the spectrum that we are all wrong to even use the term Conservatives. There has been non stop appeasement of the Blairite Progressive New Order they inherited – and zero challenge to its numerous destructive interventions. The UK was re shaped violently (via EU & Supreme laws/Devolution/Welfarism/ Quangocracy & mass immigration) into a fully compliant EU Statelet, not a nation state. The Tories bowed to this Order and so have just been swallowed up into a de facto Blob-run One Party One Credo State. High taxes. Windfall taxes. Class envy. Furlough. Lockdown. NHS Worship. Net Zero & First ULEZ. Penny Pro Trans & Stonewall & DEI wokery happily attached to the State they are supposed to command. They are NOT conservative. They are not Tories. They warrant our contempt for surrendering so absolutely to progressivism and for abandoning the UK to the even more vacant and dangerous fellow travelling Starmerites.

Martin Layfield
Martin Layfield
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I agree. It’s boring hearing for the millionth time that populism is uniquely evil. I see populism (and demagoguery) more as a style rather than ideology, and in some contexts it is justifiable. Elites are inevitable in society. However, we currently have rotten elites, so until a better alternative elite forms, the best approach for the British right (and the right in most developed countries) is to appeal to the working and lower middle classes over the head of the liberal-left professional classes.

j watson
j watson
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Now JV you yourself are prone to chucking around the phrase ‘Progressives’ in an ill defined, lazy ‘catch all’ fashion too, but that said I concur the same applies to the use of ‘Populism’ by some Authors.
If ‘Populism’ is defined as slogans or rhetoric that conveys an intention without honesty on cost or consequences in order to garner support then I think not an unreasonable point to extol that such an approach likely to create even greater disengagement medium/long term. But it is over-used and quality writers will define what they mean by it first.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Where does he say anything bad about populism? He has warned that moving to the extremities is unlikely to see you re-elected in Britain any time soon, and in that he is absolutely correct. Most elections are won by being centre left or centre right, depending on the mood of the electorate at the time.
The very quote you have chosen to highlight “Rightly or wrongly, that means accommodating them — moving to where they actually are.” in fact states the exact opposite of the point you originally made about being told your opinion doesn’t matter. The author is saying parties need to listen to the voters if the want to win subsequent elections.

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Indeed. I can see that one can term as populist, policies that contain internal contradictions, or implausible goals, such that they cannot be enacted, but that is not how the word is invariably deployed. Put simply, it is used to denote ideas that are popular, but to which the author does not subscribe – Usually out of self-interest.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think the poisonous combination of alliance with the wretched Lib Dems and the incontinent proto socialism of the Fool Johnson and Furlo Sunak has shifted the Tories SO far to the Left of the spectrum that we are all wrong to even use the term Conservatives. There has been non stop appeasement of the Blairite Progressive New Order they inherited – and zero challenge to its numerous destructive interventions. The UK was re shaped violently (via EU & Supreme laws/Devolution/Welfarism/ Quangocracy & mass immigration) into a fully compliant EU Statelet, not a nation state. The Tories bowed to this Order and so have just been swallowed up into a de facto Blob-run One Party One Credo State. High taxes. Windfall taxes. Class envy. Furlough. Lockdown. NHS Worship. Net Zero & First ULEZ. Penny Pro Trans & Stonewall & DEI wokery happily attached to the State they are supposed to command. They are NOT conservative. They are not Tories. They warrant our contempt for surrendering so absolutely to progressivism and for abandoning the UK to the even more vacant and dangerous fellow travelling Starmerites.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Frankly, I’m getting sick of all the diatribes against populism. The author is telling me my opinion doesn’t matter – the elites will figure it out for me. It’s a condescending slap in the face.

And it you’re going to do it, at least try to be consistent. In one breath, the author argues that; “adopting headline-grabbing, populist positions is a dangerous game.”

Shortly later he argues; “
that it’s almost impossible to shape voter preferences when you’re in opposition. Rightly or wrongly, that means accommodating them — moving to where they actually are.”

Here’s my advice to the Tories. Listen to the people and create a positive vision. Don’t consult polls. Meet people at their door. Show contrition for the bone-headed policies of the past. Build stuff. Quit tearing stuff down.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
10 months ago

Two key differences though.
1. The internet. There were plenty of Blair-skeptics even in 1997 but they couldn’t coalesce, and maybe didn’t even know others existed. Now they can communicate and co-ordinate.
2. Starmer is no Blair. He also has no Brown, Mandelson or Campbell equivalents (the originals are past their sell by date).

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
10 months ago

Two key differences though.
1. The internet. There were plenty of Blair-skeptics even in 1997 but they couldn’t coalesce, and maybe didn’t even know others existed. Now they can communicate and co-ordinate.
2. Starmer is no Blair. He also has no Brown, Mandelson or Campbell equivalents (the originals are past their sell by date).

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

“..making them excessively wary about spending money on expensive, in-depth research into public opinion.”
It amuses me that modern politicians don’t instinctively understand the aspirations of the social groups that they pretend to represent. Perhaps they should stick to marketing toothpaste. 

Last edited 10 months ago by polidori redux
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Love this.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Love this.

polidori redux
polidori redux
10 months ago

“..making them excessively wary about spending money on expensive, in-depth research into public opinion.”
It amuses me that modern politicians don’t instinctively understand the aspirations of the social groups that they pretend to represent. Perhaps they should stick to marketing toothpaste. 

Last edited 10 months ago by polidori redux
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

It might help if the Tories stopped regurgitating dross from the past.

For example did anyone hear one Andrew Mitchell* a week ago last Monday, pontificating hysterically about Climate Change on Radio4?

(* He of the notorious Plebgate Affair, where he proved conclusively to the Nation he is neither “an Officer nor a Gentleman “.)

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

It might help if the Tories stopped regurgitating dross from the past.

For example did anyone hear one Andrew Mitchell* a week ago last Monday, pontificating hysterically about Climate Change on Radio4?

(* He of the notorious Plebgate Affair, where he proved conclusively to the Nation he is neither “an Officer nor a Gentleman “.)

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

Until a party stands up against the global warming/ LGBT/ racism fascists, the majority votes, there to be had, will go unwon…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Precisely, that is why we do NOT want male hysterics such as Andrew Mitchell in government, posing as yet another faux Tory.

Last edited 10 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Precisely, that is why we do NOT want male hysterics such as Andrew Mitchell in government, posing as yet another faux Tory.

Last edited 10 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

Until a party stands up against the global warming/ LGBT/ racism fascists, the majority votes, there to be had, will go unwon…

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
10 months ago

“Of course, the rational thing for a defeated party to do would be to conduct a comprehensive post-mortem”
What they need above all else is a strategy for getting the Civil Service to do what they’re bloody told.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
10 months ago

“Of course, the rational thing for a defeated party to do would be to conduct a comprehensive post-mortem”
What they need above all else is a strategy for getting the Civil Service to do what they’re bloody told.

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
10 months ago

I’m finding it difficult to see where any Conservative Comeback is going to come from, quite honestly. They (or rather their voters) have run out of patience with the unofficial Conservative / Liberal “coalition” that has kept them ahead of the game for decades. Now, through sheer ineptitude they have also lost the “Labour” section of the new coalition that they so brilliantly replaced it with in 2019.
There are no obvious further voter or MP coalitions available, and their Conservative core vote (like the UK population) is well below “replacement rate” and shrinking fast. After 5 to 15 years in opposition, many more of these will have died off – probably including this former member, who will certainly not vote for them next time anyway. Who else will join their creaking bandwagon while they are in the irrelevance of opposition? I’m seeing absolutely no answer.
And if I’m right, the point about that is that the Conservative Party could be finished. I think there’s a tendency to overestimate its potency, or assume that it will always be there, as it has been so successful at gaining and keeping power for so long. But it’s only a political party (and a very shaky lash up of political views it is too). And what it has to offer now isn’t nearly big enough or broad enough to win any sort of majority, or even a convincing minority, I’d say.
To sum up, when you’ve always been “all things to all people”, and no one wants any version of it any more, then, well, the music’s stopped, hasn’t it? It’s Over.
Does anyone have any arguments against?

Last edited 10 months ago by Albireo Double
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
10 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

The Conservative Party will lose the election because it has governed dreadfully. The Labour Party will be worse and is inheriting a ship of state holed below the waterline.

In its turn it will lose either in 29 or 34, probably to something branded as The Conservative Party but with a very different look to todays.

Nobody believes a word any of them say, which will get worse. Protest voting against the incumbent will keep the churn going.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Historically the Conservative Party has hit similar periods of disrepute but then performed an about face on previously unquestioned policies and relaunched itself.
What policies could it pivot on in the near future, which are unquestioned today?
Scottish independence
Northern Ireland independence or abandon EU alignment
Make Net Zero an attitude, not a goal
Encourage micro nuclear power generators
Overhaul the NHS along European lines
Stop further delivery of HS2
Build an extra runway at Heathrow
Reform the taxation system
Reduce the number of QUANGOs
Reduce university education to a more practical percentage
There’s plenty to go at, although the cries from the vested interests would be loud.

Last edited 10 months ago by AC Harper
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
10 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

The Conservative Party will lose the election because it has governed dreadfully. The Labour Party will be worse and is inheriting a ship of state holed below the waterline.

In its turn it will lose either in 29 or 34, probably to something branded as The Conservative Party but with a very different look to todays.

Nobody believes a word any of them say, which will get worse. Protest voting against the incumbent will keep the churn going.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

Historically the Conservative Party has hit similar periods of disrepute but then performed an about face on previously unquestioned policies and relaunched itself.
What policies could it pivot on in the near future, which are unquestioned today?
Scottish independence
Northern Ireland independence or abandon EU alignment
Make Net Zero an attitude, not a goal
Encourage micro nuclear power generators
Overhaul the NHS along European lines
Stop further delivery of HS2
Build an extra runway at Heathrow
Reform the taxation system
Reduce the number of QUANGOs
Reduce university education to a more practical percentage
There’s plenty to go at, although the cries from the vested interests would be loud.

Last edited 10 months ago by AC Harper
Albireo Double
Albireo Double
10 months ago

I’m finding it difficult to see where any Conservative Comeback is going to come from, quite honestly. They (or rather their voters) have run out of patience with the unofficial Conservative / Liberal “coalition” that has kept them ahead of the game for decades. Now, through sheer ineptitude they have also lost the “Labour” section of the new coalition that they so brilliantly replaced it with in 2019.
There are no obvious further voter or MP coalitions available, and their Conservative core vote (like the UK population) is well below “replacement rate” and shrinking fast. After 5 to 15 years in opposition, many more of these will have died off – probably including this former member, who will certainly not vote for them next time anyway. Who else will join their creaking bandwagon while they are in the irrelevance of opposition? I’m seeing absolutely no answer.
And if I’m right, the point about that is that the Conservative Party could be finished. I think there’s a tendency to overestimate its potency, or assume that it will always be there, as it has been so successful at gaining and keeping power for so long. But it’s only a political party (and a very shaky lash up of political views it is too). And what it has to offer now isn’t nearly big enough or broad enough to win any sort of majority, or even a convincing minority, I’d say.
To sum up, when you’ve always been “all things to all people”, and no one wants any version of it any more, then, well, the music’s stopped, hasn’t it? It’s Over.
Does anyone have any arguments against?

Last edited 10 months ago by Albireo Double
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
10 months ago

Two key issues were not discussed in the article: who elects Tory leaders and who funds the Tory party. Conservative Party members have a poor record of electing leaders that appeal to the electorate: Hague, IDS, Cameron (who couldn’t win a majority after Labour had run the country into a financial crisis and recession) and Liz Truss were duds. Only Johnson initially had broader appeal. The Tory Party is funded by bankers and builders whose preferred policies have turned young couples who can’t buy a home to socialism.

roger dog
roger dog
10 months ago

Surely Johnson was popular only because he promised to get Brexit done.
Liz Truss was kicked out by the blob. She was not a dud. Those we have now however, are duds.

roger dog
roger dog
10 months ago

Surely Johnson was popular only because he promised to get Brexit done.
Liz Truss was kicked out by the blob. She was not a dud. Those we have now however, are duds.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
10 months ago

Two key issues were not discussed in the article: who elects Tory leaders and who funds the Tory party. Conservative Party members have a poor record of electing leaders that appeal to the electorate: Hague, IDS, Cameron (who couldn’t win a majority after Labour had run the country into a financial crisis and recession) and Liz Truss were duds. Only Johnson initially had broader appeal. The Tory Party is funded by bankers and builders whose preferred policies have turned young couples who can’t buy a home to socialism.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
10 months ago

The Tories, at least as currently understood, need to be electorally eradicated, burned to ash, crushed and not just defeated. For 13 years, the primary obstacle to small-c conservative policies has been the absurdly misnamed Conservative Party.
Labour will be at best more of the same, a clown show on crack, but that’s what we have now. The Stupid Party had their turn, time for the Evil Party to have a go.
And election after next, from the discredited institutional ruins, maybe an actual small-c conservative party worth voting for will arise. Perhaps a reconstituted Conservative Party that Thatcher would have recognised, or perhaps Reform, or maybe something else entirely.
But the current Blue Blairite Party needs to be burned, the ground on which it stood salted, its apparatchiks rejected and abominated.

James Kirk
James Kirk
10 months ago

Swap Labour for Conservative and you’d be right. Thatcher emasculated the men on both sides of the House. Now they self emasculate.

James Kirk
James Kirk
10 months ago

Swap Labour for Conservative and you’d be right. Thatcher emasculated the men on both sides of the House. Now they self emasculate.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
10 months ago

The Tories, at least as currently understood, need to be electorally eradicated, burned to ash, crushed and not just defeated. For 13 years, the primary obstacle to small-c conservative policies has been the absurdly misnamed Conservative Party.
Labour will be at best more of the same, a clown show on crack, but that’s what we have now. The Stupid Party had their turn, time for the Evil Party to have a go.
And election after next, from the discredited institutional ruins, maybe an actual small-c conservative party worth voting for will arise. Perhaps a reconstituted Conservative Party that Thatcher would have recognised, or perhaps Reform, or maybe something else entirely.
But the current Blue Blairite Party needs to be burned, the ground on which it stood salted, its apparatchiks rejected and abominated.

R Wright
R Wright
10 months ago

The author’s centrist mewling here isn’t wirth reading.

R Wright
R Wright
10 months ago

The author’s centrist mewling here isn’t wirth reading.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

You could make an argument that ‘Learning from History’, election post mortems and even Royal Inquiries don’t work. The questions asked are not the right ones, blame is improperly cast, and the actions for the future are severely watered down. Plus the people in charge are still mostly in charge and don’t want to hear any criticism.
So move on. Don’t refight the last election. Aim to win the next. And if that means some political ‘truths’ need to be abandoned then do so, and don’t be shy about it.

AC Harper
AC Harper
10 months ago

You could make an argument that ‘Learning from History’, election post mortems and even Royal Inquiries don’t work. The questions asked are not the right ones, blame is improperly cast, and the actions for the future are severely watered down. Plus the people in charge are still mostly in charge and don’t want to hear any criticism.
So move on. Don’t refight the last election. Aim to win the next. And if that means some political ‘truths’ need to be abandoned then do so, and don’t be shy about it.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

It didn’t really matter to most middle class people that Blair won in 1997 because he made sure that house prices and rents continued to rise.

Starmer will do the same. Meanwhile public services will continue to crumble under the pressure of mass immigration, education will continue to be replaced by brainwashing and the upward transfer of wealth will accelerate.

Tens of thousands of people lose their bank accounts in a purge that would have embarrassed Stalin and the shadow Chancellor claims it’s the multi-millionaire bankers who are being ‘bullied’.

Don’t worry – we’re in safe hands.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

It didn’t really matter to most middle class people that Blair won in 1997 because he made sure that house prices and rents continued to rise.

Starmer will do the same. Meanwhile public services will continue to crumble under the pressure of mass immigration, education will continue to be replaced by brainwashing and the upward transfer of wealth will accelerate.

Tens of thousands of people lose their bank accounts in a purge that would have embarrassed Stalin and the shadow Chancellor claims it’s the multi-millionaire bankers who are being ‘bullied’.

Don’t worry – we’re in safe hands.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

But they are NOT Tories any more?!!!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
10 months ago

But they are NOT Tories any more?!!!

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
10 months ago

The last two paragraphs contradict the rest of the article. Refusing to ‘abandon the mainstream centre right’ is exactly the refusal to ‘move on’ which previous paragraphs are criticizing

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
10 months ago

The last two paragraphs contradict the rest of the article. Refusing to ‘abandon the mainstream centre right’ is exactly the refusal to ‘move on’ which previous paragraphs are criticizing

Peter Hall
Peter Hall
10 months ago

Wouldn’t it be good if a person aspiring to lead the party and eventually the country put forward a programme that addressed the huge structural problems facing the United Kingdom. The high tax high spending bureaucratic welfare state has parasitised and impoverished our society. A heroic conservative leader would try to educate and sell to the electorate a programme of low tax small government liberal enterprise economy and society by reforming the welfare state to pass control from providers to the public (for example the Australian model of universal healthcare with substantial private sector provision), fiscal conservatism and a commitment to paying down national debt, protecting the environment, zero population growth, law and order, universal mandatory pension saving to fuel the enterprise economy, free tertiary education and write off of student debt, ending the bbc licence fee, legalising drugs, transition of the House of Lords to make it an elected body, compulsory voting, alternative vote, photo I’d. Of course it would be unpopular and difficult but that is the programme that would deliver a prosperous and happier society. Follow the Hong Kong model rather than the welfare state model.

Last edited 10 months ago by Peter Hall
Peter Hall
Peter Hall
10 months ago

Wouldn’t it be good if a person aspiring to lead the party and eventually the country put forward a programme that addressed the huge structural problems facing the United Kingdom. The high tax high spending bureaucratic welfare state has parasitised and impoverished our society. A heroic conservative leader would try to educate and sell to the electorate a programme of low tax small government liberal enterprise economy and society by reforming the welfare state to pass control from providers to the public (for example the Australian model of universal healthcare with substantial private sector provision), fiscal conservatism and a commitment to paying down national debt, protecting the environment, zero population growth, law and order, universal mandatory pension saving to fuel the enterprise economy, free tertiary education and write off of student debt, ending the bbc licence fee, legalising drugs, transition of the House of Lords to make it an elected body, compulsory voting, alternative vote, photo I’d. Of course it would be unpopular and difficult but that is the programme that would deliver a prosperous and happier society. Follow the Hong Kong model rather than the welfare state model.

Last edited 10 months ago by Peter Hall
Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago

We already know what is going to happen. Labour landslide followed by a hard right turn from the decimated Tories. Sunak will be sacrificed to the tiny fringe of extremists who elect Tory leaders and you’ll go through a couple of swivel eyed loons (Braverman please!) before someone reasonable emerges and the pendulum eventually swings back. Two general elections at least.
It’s going to be delicious!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

I fear you’re right. My impression of the current Tory party is that they’re not really interested in responding to voters’ concerns. Liz Truss was on the right path before she lost her nerve and resigned.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

So another ten wasted years! Doesn’t matter if you’re 70/80 but appalling if are 25/35.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago

I’m really not sure why anyone would want to celebrate an incompetent and ineffective conservative or labour party. If those two parties actually represented their constituents, at least some of our problems might go away, including the rather nebulous concept of populism.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Populism has just become lazy shorthand for any fringe parties or ideas outside what has been the consensus since the days of Thatcher and then New Labour

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Who said anything about the new Labour government being incompetent?
I suspect they will be a lot more competent than the current mob.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Populism has just become lazy shorthand for any fringe parties or ideas outside what has been the consensus since the days of Thatcher and then New Labour

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Who said anything about the new Labour government being incompetent?
I suspect they will be a lot more competent than the current mob.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
10 months ago

I fear you’re right. My impression of the current Tory party is that they’re not really interested in responding to voters’ concerns. Liz Truss was on the right path before she lost her nerve and resigned.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

So another ten wasted years! Doesn’t matter if you’re 70/80 but appalling if are 25/35.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago

I’m really not sure why anyone would want to celebrate an incompetent and ineffective conservative or labour party. If those two parties actually represented their constituents, at least some of our problems might go away, including the rather nebulous concept of populism.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
10 months ago

We already know what is going to happen. Labour landslide followed by a hard right turn from the decimated Tories. Sunak will be sacrificed to the tiny fringe of extremists who elect Tory leaders and you’ll go through a couple of swivel eyed loons (Braverman please!) before someone reasonable emerges and the pendulum eventually swings back. Two general elections at least.
It’s going to be delicious!