Leading Article: Where to turn?

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THE PARTY's still for turning. Peter Lilley's discovery last week that there are limits to what the free market can do - a discovery apparently endorsed by William Hague - has infuriated the heresy-hunters of the Tory right , but then the "Tory rebels", to use the media's flattering description of them, have been smashing the china ever since Margaret Thatcher was deposed in 1990. At the last election they proved the truth of H L Mencken's dictum that logic is the last refuge of the fool. Seeing that Blair was ahead in the polls, and noting that he had moved his party to the right, the rebels - the most powerful group in the party, with most of the press at their disposal - concluded that the only way to beat Labour was by moving to the right. QED. What they overlooked was that Labour had moved to the right from the left, and had thus moved to the centre, where the Volvo voters live; whereas any rightward move by the Tories could only take them further from the centre, and the voters, and closer to Bedlam. In the event, and against John Major's better judgment, they chose to move closer to Bedlam. The rest is history, or perhaps geography.

There are only two ways the Tories can succeed at the next election. The first is by luck. Blair may come a cropper if his Balkans adventure backfires. The second is by moving even further to the left than common sense and Mr Lilley are leading them. Perhaps the Tories' best hope is to become the truly radical party: anti-war, libertarian, tolerant. God knows, they won't have far to move if they are to adopt a position to Labour's left. It should never be forgotten that Mr Blair was supported in 1997 by Lady Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch.

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