Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conservative conundrums

Is it really six weeks since I last posted, how time flies. Summer is for holidays though, and the trouble with holidays is catching up afterwards, hence silence for a while. But it has also been somewhat dull in British politics. Dull because there is a lot of care being taken as all parties prepare for a general election. The most fascinating struggles seem to be taking place in the Conservative party. While there seem to be a constant stream of rumours surrounding behind the scenes machinations within Labour circles (for example); the Conservative power struggles are very public. The substance is also fairly revealing.

Alan Duncan's off message argument in favour of expenses was dangerous for the new compassionate Conservative brand; thus he was eventually dismissed from the Shadow Cabinet. Interestingly Daniel Hannan's rant against the NHS was simply dismissed as opposed to any form of censure against him. Perhaps this is because he is not a lone voice, given others also spoke out in support of him, but also because there is a groundswell of support for his stance within Conservative circles. However Edward McMillan-Scott is less lucky, he has been expelled for his opposition to the Conservatives' new alliance in the European Parliament and his decision to stand for Vice President against one of the party's new allies.

Perhaps what this suggests is that the party is struggling with certain policies that are extremely close to Conservative hearts. The party is clearly distancing itself from the duck houses that Tory grandees were buying to feather their nests (sorry, couldn't resist). They are perhaps not closing debates on the NHS, though are keen to marginalise them without fully extinguishing those voices. However the position on the EU is irreversible. The party wishes to be clear about its opposition to federalism and will not have that questioned. Perhaps the aim of all of this is to firm up the party's traditional support and amass it behind Cameron. Perhaps there is research that suggests he has more appeal among the floating voter than his own core support, an issue that dogged his early period as party leader. Perhaps what the party is doing is sending subtle signals to their core voters, supporters and activists that the party may have changed but certain values and positions remain.

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