Editorial: The unleadable Conservative Party

It was depressing that Mr Cameron returned to the 'piffle' of the broken society

Share
Related Topics

When Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, is reduced to saying that public disagreements over policy are evidence that the party is "fizzing with ideas", we know the party is in trouble. The Prime Minister sought to calm that trouble with a forceful restatement of his central message in his speech yesterday, but succeeded only in prompting us to wonder: Are the Conservatives ungovernable?

David Cameron's address was in two halves. The good half was the "aspiration nation" theme. He focused on the rungs on the ladder to a better life for young people: family, school, higher education, jobs and home ownership. This allowed him to promise faster adoption (and worrying less about ethnic matching), apprenticeships and start-up business loans for young people. The bad half of the speech was the appeasement of the activists' yearning for a better yesterday.

It was depressing that Mr Cameron returned to the pessimism of the "broken society" – a phrase that Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and the Prime Minister's most serious rival, has rightly described as "piffle". And it was, frankly, childish for Mr Cameron to claim that "narrative history" is back at the heart of the curriculum: "Kings, Queens, battles, dates – our island's story in all its glory."

His claim that "dozens" more free schools are in the pipeline hardly sounded like the radical education revolution that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, promises. Our report today, that three of the first seven Ofsted inspections of free schools found that they "require improvement", should remind us that schools reform is hard and slow, and should warn politicians against over-claiming.

Mr Cameron's desperation is understandable, however. Tory MPs are so gloomy about their prospects in 2015 that Theresa May, not one of the Cabinet's obvious high fliers, has been talked up as a contender for his job, and speculation about Mr Johnson's return to the House of Commons runs unabated.

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will pay the price of having got too close to Rupert Murdoch before the last election, as Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg combine to embarrass him in the name of the victims of press excesses. Yet, far from praising Mr Cameron for having done everything he could to win last time, many in his party blame him for failing to win outright.

Our ComRes opinion poll today should remind the Tories that voters regard Mr Cameron more favourably than they do his party, or Ed Miliband. Yet much of the party is trapped in a world of its own, in which it believes that a more assertive celebration of "our island's story" (that is, less Europe and less immigration) would be all that it takes to win a Conservative majority next time.

The party's troubles run deep indeed. They go back to Margaret Thatcher and the alternative history of her golden age, believed by so many Tories, in which she was right wing and won elections. It is a mythical history that ignores the division of the left in her time, and her deep unpopularity at the end, brought about by her "right-wing" policy of the poll tax.

Mr Cameron recognises, as he made as clear as he dared after Ukip eclipsed the Tories in the Eastleigh by-election, that general elections are won in the centre ground. That was the lesson learned by William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard. But his party shows every sign of refusing to accept that reality.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher - September 2014

£100 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for a Teacher of...

English Teacher

Main Teacher Pay Scale : Randstad Education Leeds: English Teacher RequiredImm...

KS2 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day + tax deductable expenses: Randstad Education Leicester: KS...

B2B Bids and Tenders Pricing Specialist

£35000 - £45000 per annum + excellent company benefits : Pro-Recruitment Group...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: Britain's sexism

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back

Nigel Farage
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?