Bruce Anderson: The Tories' divisions are cultural, not ideological

On policy, an opposition which writes from the hip will be kicked in the backside

Related Topics

The party then has two choices. It could try to stick to its position, in which case it would be battered like a boxer on the ropes. Or it could announce that it has thought again. In that case, general mockery would ensue. Every opposition spokesman would be taunted: which of his propositions was next for rethinking? On policy, an opposition which writes from the hip will be kicked in the backside.

Some of David Davis's senior supporters are aware of this. David Willetts has gently pointed out the unwisdom of trying to make tax policy now for the next decade. David Davis is not stupid. He must realise that this will do him damage among thoughtful Tories. Mr Davis is not interested in thoughtful Tories; that is the key to the Tory leadership campaign, and the true divisions. They are not about ideology or policy; they are cultural.

A lot of instinctive Tories are fed up with the direction that modern Britain has taken. Although it might seem easy to dismiss such characters as troglodytes, they have more of a case than their facile critics would concede. It is based on three policy areas: Europe, crime, and immigration. On each, these dissident Tories believe that they were right all along. They know that behind the reassuring propaganda about free trade, the foreigners - and the Foreign Office - were always plotting to create a federal Europe.

They knew that a more liberal treatment of criminals would merely encourage more crime. They predicted that the abolition of the death penalty would result in a great increase in gun crime, and murder. They also predicted that large-scale coloured immigration would change the character of our cities, while creating intractable social problems.

On the basis of the evidence, they are not about to admit that they have been proved wrong. Any intellectually honest liberal ought to concede that the troglodytic Tories did make a realistic assessment of the complexities of change.

David Cameron knows that some of the changes are irreversible. We can fight for Britain's rights in Europe and resist any further federalist encroachments, but we are not going to leave the EU, and we will remain net contributors.

We can impose tighter controls on future immigration, and we must deal with the scandal of illegal immigrants. However, the character of some of our cities has changed, irrevocably. There is no alternative, we have to work with the new communities to help them to assimilate. There is nothing we can do to reduce murder and gun crime rates to 1950s levels. There are measures that could be taken, such as restoring a backbone of leadership throughout all police forces; but there is no use indulging in fantasies about bringing back the death penalty.

Tough-minded Toryism is both necessary and desirable; but that is not a matter of strutting, lapel-tugging and sloganising. Tough-mindedness means wrestling with difficulties, not retreating into fantasy.

David Davis arrived at the Tories' party conference thinking that he had almost wrapped up the leadership. He was rapidly disillusioned. Since then he has tried to conceal his bewilderment - plus his bitterness - and recover from his reverses by falling back on what he hopes is his base: those Tories who want to stop modern Britain so that they can get off. In the middle of last week, that seemed to be yielding benefits. Fortunately for the Tory party, this was short-lived.

Over four or five years, a Cameron government could achieve as much as a sensible, real-world right-winger could realistically expect. Apart from being electorally inconceivable, a Davis government would be much less effective. In Britain today, it requires intellectual self-confidence to be a successful right-winger. Mr Cameron possesses that attribute. Mr Davis does not: he knows himself too well.

Wise Tories may well regret the social changes of the past 40 years. The only sensible attitude is to choose a leader who would manage them; not one who would start by opposing them all, and end up by surrendering.

David Cameron has often been described as moderniser: not an unfair account of his opinions. By "modernising", Mr Cameron would not mean an open-ended acceptance of a metropolitan trendy agenda. He would simply mean that if the Tory party wishes to create the Britain that it would like to see, it must start by coming to terms with Britain as it is.

React Now

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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform