Letters:Four elements of the Tory Party

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The Independent Online
Sir: If the Conservative Party is to pull itself together, then all the elements need to start from how things actually are, rather than from where they would like them to be. There are, as I see it, four such elements in the party. There is a sma ll group on the left, the neo-Heathites; there is a larger group on the right, the neo-Thatcherites; there is the PM and his beleagured phalanx of office-holders; and there are the rest of us, the bewildered mass of the party as a whole, if mass is still a valid term.

Each of these elements has components of realism in its position, but also components of fantasy. The neo-Heathites still see Europe as a panacea, which it is not, but they also carry the flag for the real values of "One Nation" Toryism. Ministers rightly focus on the realities of office and the real powers of government, but they delude themselves, if no one else, when they claim it is all working well.

It is however the neo-Thatcherites who engage most vigorously in self-delusion, as is characteristic of all extremists. While the neo-Thatcherites are correct to identify the concerns, which nearly everyone shares, about some of the consequences and implications for this country of the EU, they are wrong to proceed on the assumption that this means that we are, on balance, "against" Europe. Conservative voters have not abandoned the party to vote Labour or Liberal because the Conservatives are too pro-Europe. The other parties are clearly far worse in that respect. Nor have such voters abandoned the party in favour of Labour and the Liberals because they want the return to Thatcherism that her disciples preach; quite the opposite. Neo-That cherite policies would be thoroughly counter-productive in terms of regaining electoral support, which is what, ultimately, democracy is about.

That leaves the fantasies in which the party as a whole engages. In addition to Europe as a panacea, these include: the belief that further cuts in the nominal rate of income tax, while raising tax rates elsewhere, is an attractive objective; that the market is an answer to everything; that the fragmentation of administration is cost-effective; that public expenditure and public service is bad; and that the community can care effectively for its members without a sufficiency of intermediate institutions . A clear-out of these fantasies would require a distinct change of course on the part of the Conservative Party, but is not that just what the voting public appears to be asking us for?

Yours faithfully, HUMPHRY CRUM EWING Reading