LEADING ARTICLE : Truly blue and deeply disunited

Share
Related Topics
Could the Conservative Parliamentary Party really be set on "political suicide"? Michael Mates, the former Northern Ireland Security Minister, certainly seems to think so writing in the Mail on Sunday yesterday. With speculation growing about other potential defectors from the Tory backbenches, John Major's call for an end to internal squabbles on BBC television's Breakfast with Frost yesterday rang hollow. Just six months after he called a leadership campaign supposedly to unite the party, the internal bickering between the left and right wings is as virulent as ever.

We should hardly be surprised at the squabbling among the true blues. The Conservatives have always been a broad church - a coalition of two conflicting sets of views. To the left of the aisle sit the one-nation paternalists, to the right the market-obsessed nationalists. Throughout the history of the party the two wings have argued, compromised and taken their turn at dominating the Government. The different wings ought to be able to engage in constructive debate without unleashing howls and laments about "damaging internal splits".

However, the troubles that plague the Tories at the moment reflect more than just a healthy political difference of opinion. Where the leadership appears strong and in control, policy disagreements among underlings can be healthy and constructive. But voters feel uneasy when the direction at the top seems to waver in the wind, battered first by one faction and then by another. It is even worse if the fights take place in election years. When the factions appear far apart, people do not know what they are voting for. Who knows who will hold the reins of power inside the party in six months' time?

The second problem is that neither wing offers the electorate a persuasive alternative to Tony Blair. The right has plenty of ideas about cutting the welfare state and withdrawing from Europe, articulated most coherently by Norman Lamont in recent months. But its views are far from the centre of popular opinion and it lacks impressive leaders to carry it forwards.

The left of the party boasts a list of heavyweights including Michael Heseltine, Kenneth Clarke and, when he returns from Hong Kong, Chris Patten. These members are guilty of failing to offer a robust enough defence against some of the lunacies of the right. The new Macleod group within the party, aiming to present proposals from the centre-right, is a welcome corrective and should hasten the launch of its first pamphlet. But the biggest problem for the Tory wets is Mr Blair: anything they want to say, Mr Blair says better.

Mr Clarke is closer on most policy issues to Mr Blair than to Michael Portillo. Only their history and traditions keep them apart. Emma Nicholson and Alan Howarth finally decided they had more in common with other parties than with their own colleagues. The future of the Conservative Party - both at and after the next election - will turn on whether it still has more to unite it than to divide it. And also on whether its members have a leader behind whom they are prepared to unite.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?