Simon Carr: The Tories have nothing to say about modern life

They're dragged like donkeys towards the present; they shy away from the future
Click to follow

What kind of result was that? It's a disaster for those of us who depend on disaster. No one did disastrously. They all say it was disastrous for their opponents but in fact everyone did rather well. The reds are still in business; the blues made a solid step forward and the yellows did better than they've done for years.

What kind of result was that? It's a disaster for those of us who depend on disaster. No one did disastrously. They all say it was disastrous for their opponents but in fact everyone did rather well. The reds are still in business; the blues made a solid step forward and the yellows did better than they've done for years.

It's the win-win-win situation that politicians always talk about. Even the great, shambling, many-headed monster that is the British electorate got precisely the result it wanted.

It's not easy to discern the wreckage hidden in this perfect structure but let me try to help. The Lib Dems will buckle and betray their principles at the first opportunity (the ID cards Bill, first up in the new Parliament). Gordon Brown's reputation will be shattered as soon as the dollar strengthens. (It imports inflation and interest rates bounce.)

And the Tories ... ah, the Tories are facing the greatest disaster in 100 years as they stick to their tried and tested methods. (The ones that test and trial have been shown not to work any more.)

Michael Howard has done just well enough to persuade his party they were on the right track. They really should listen to the Prime Minister more. Tony Blair is always right about the Tories. (It's his special subject.)

He says they are stuck in the position Labour was familiar with in their days of absurdity. The Tory Project hasn't even started yet. They haven't even started thinking about starting. That's what he says and it's one of the things that we can absolutely believe. The end of the beginning isn't even in sight for the Conservative Party.

David Cameron is not the young Tony Blair; he is the young Alan Milburn. People compare George Osborne to Gordon Brown; you might also compare Muffin the Mule to Red Rum. There is no evidence in the party of the intellectual or emotional energy to present a Conservative world-view to a high street full of facial metal and a population in track suits.

Britain has changed irrevocably over the past decade or two. You'd think that wouldn't need saying. But the Conservative Party is conservative so it still laments the changes. They're dragged like donkeys towards the present; they shy away from the future.

All this stuff about mutual respect and equality and diversity directorates. Even when they daren't say the words out loud, they think "political correctness" and then, very likely, "gone mad". They're like old lefties who sprinkle holy water around themselves when they hear the word "profit".

I was chatting to a gay Conservative candidate during the campaign and suggested that there were some advantages in this new regime, that we had experienced some moral evolution in Britain. The word "nigger", for instance, was now more feared than the word "toilet" in middle class households. That wasn't true even 20 years ago. And look: you could now be gay and stand for Parliament. That had been a victory for "political correctness", hadn't it? He shuddered openly.

They've been on the wrong side of the argument for almost every aspect of this new world. They have had nothing constructive to say about equal pay for women, discrimination against minorities, Clause 28, public services, poverty, the minimum wage, Europe, global warming. Their heart's not in it. They've been dragged into Labour's progressive consensus; they've been forced to accept it, forced to espouse it, but they're not used to it. They've no talent for it. It's alien to their deepest instincts.

Because their core principles have been kicked away from underneath them, or pinched to build New Labour's platform, they haven't had anything useful to tell us for years. Their voice doesn't ring true and they won't until they can tell us what they really want to do.

How do proper Conservatives deal with poor people? How does the majority benefit from sweeping away means testing and targeted benefits? What happens to the hopeless when you remove the protection of Whitehall? How are you going to get rid of a million public servants without reinforcing a reputation for cannibalism?

How do you make teachers and doctors actually do what they're supposed to without targets? What is the moral case for lower taxation? How do private schools justify their charitable status? Doesn't social mobility increase economic performance? And if so, how do we get clever working-class children the best education? What is the conflict between freedom and fairness and which should prevail as a matter of principle?

There are Conservative answers to all these questions. I wish they'd tell us what they are.

Comments