Conservative party must heed warning from Nick Boles or risk terminal decline

Tories should revive the National Liberal Party brand in order to build coalitions before, rather than after, elections

Share

The tragedy of the Conservative Party is that when things get tough it has a suicidal tendency to retreat into its comfort zone. We saw it under William Hague, then Michael Howard and now, sadly, we see signs of it under David Cameron. After the gay marriage triumph that upset a few people living in the past, we have heard little other than those favourite old themes of bashing burglars, slashing taxes, cutting benefits and sending immigrants home.

This is depressing for members who want their party to inhabit the messy, fast-evolving modern world. These are the people so enthusiastic about those deleted speeches the Prime Minister gave in opposition about rebuilding communities, rehabilitating criminals and reforming vested interests. Clearly, the election proved party modernisation was incomplete. So even when they agree with policies such as restricting benefits, they want to hear moderate messages aimed at those fleeing female and younger voters.

Nick Boles was one of the earliest and most perceptive proponents of Tory modernisation. This explains why earlier this year he rounded on the ‘truly rotten’ campaign that flopped so embarrassingly in the Eastleigh by-election, pointing out tough messages designed to see off Ukip harked back to Michael Howard’s campaign in 2005. Yesterday, he told Bright Blue that when today’s Britain looks at the Conservative Party it sees an old-fashioned monolith.

The planning minister’s carefully-crafted speech was dressed up with attacks on his coalition partners, of course, pointing out correctly how they have abandoned any pretence of liberalism with their statist opposition to public sector reform. This showed how someone who initially relished coalition has come to see that it has proved disastrous for his party, prodding it to the right and painting it in reactionary colours.

His argument was astute in suggesting the Tories should revive the National Liberal Party brand in order to build coalitions before, rather than after, elections. This idea reflects the digital age and obvious breakdown in political discipline, with MPs increasingly loyal to constituents over party. It is hardly a new concept: Michael Heseltine, for instance, stood under this banner in his first election contest.

But at heart this speech was a reminder the Tories have lost two elections by lurching to the right and are in danger of repeating the mistake. Once again, Lynton Crosby is at the helm - and there is a dearth of strong voices in Downing Street to counter his antediluvian approach. They need to remember immigrant families are even moving into the safest Surrey seats - and not being white remains the best predictor a person will not vote Conservative. If the party does not heed Boles’s subtle warning, it might not just lose the next election. It might even put itself out of business.

Twitter.com/@ianbirrell

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£120 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary Teachers required to work on s...

Year 1 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 1 Teachers required to wor...

Year 3 Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: I am recruiting for Year 3 teac...

Primary Teacher Part Time

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Part time Primary Teacher requi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King in hospital with his mother  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations led to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York