Sunday, September 04, 2005


3rd time lucky for Ken Clarke?

This week, Kenneth Clarke, MP and ex-chancellor threw his hat into the ring for the UK Conservative leadership race. This will be his third attempt over the last eight years. Somehow I don’t think the Tories will elect him because he is, at least to many, a Euro-loving politician on the left of the party. To me, this will be their loss. Over the last decade the Tory party has ripped itself to shreds, gone through four leaders and badly lost three elections. Nevertheless, it still insists on pandering to its increasingly aging membership instead of reaching out to the country as a whole.

This mirrors the plight Labour found itself in during the Eighties and early Nineties. After losing to Thatcher in 1979, the Labour moved foolishly further to the left under Michael Foot and was crushed in 1983. It took another two defeats until the modernization of Labour was completed and somewhat vindicated in 1997 when Tony Blair won a landslide and became Prime Minister. To reach this point, he had to ditch socialism and rebrand the party as New Labour. Unfortunately somewhere along this path they seemed to have stolen the Tories clothes and lost the soul of the party.

After 18 years of Government, the Tories had grown increasingly arrogant, detached and worse under John Major’s leadership, incompetent and visionless. I believe the rot started with Major. Sure, Thatcher was losing her way with her insistence of implementing the grossly unfair and hated poll-tax, as well as creating a more divided UK between the have and have-nots. Despite signing various treaties over her decade in power, her hatred for all things European was verging on paranoia. Her time was up. Unfortunately the guilt-ridden Tories couldn’t elect the knife-wielding Michael Heseltine who did the most to oust the sitting PM in challenging her leadership.

Instead they went for a middle of the road, fairly untested, uncharismatic John Major. A man chiefly who shall be remembered for Black Wednesday when interest rates went to over 12%, secretly bonking Edwina Currie despite the ‘Back to Basics’ campaign and setting up the traffic cone hotline. Somehow he managed to scrape a narrow win in 1992, mainly because the country felt that having a ‘grey lettuce’ in power was preferable to Neil Kinnock. Plus, many kept saying that John Major was a ‘nice man’ as if nice has ever been a perquisite for political leadership. Since then, the Tory party has consistently voted in complete non-starters.

The bald-headed, ex-Tory youth William Hague got voted in because the party believed he could reach out to the young. As if going to Notting Hill carnival wearing a baseball cap and banging on about saving the pound was going to attract any voters. He managed to win 1 seat back for the Tories in 2001. Wow – only another 180 more seats to win back over time. Then they put Iain Duncan Smith into the cockpit of the now disaster prone party. He was another dullard who didn’t even make it to an election. He was soon ditched for the more experienced Michael Howard – the infamous architect of the poll-tax.

Whilst Howard was a more effective operator – his brand of Conservatism is exactly why so many people won’t vote Tory. First he inherited an open goal missed opportunity from IDS over the Iraq War and yet he still supported that foolishly dangerous, unnecessary and illegal war. Then at the time of the election last year – he mainly concentrated on immigration sealing the impression that the Tory Party is the ‘Nasty Party’. So now the Tories have another broad choice of complete non-starters, rabid right-wingers, incompetents and dullards. Liam Fox, Malcolm Rifkind, David Davis and David Cameron are announced or likely candidates. Boring.

At least Howard is sensible enough to try and change the rules and take away the power away from the party activists. What do they know about modern Britain? I’m sure they would elect Thatcher again if they could – or worse still – cut the country adrift into the Atlantic, paddle away from funny speaking, bureaucratic Europe and join the US with George Bush as their head honcho. The fact that Clarke has tried yet again for the leadership, I’m sure is a complete anathema to them. A plain-speaking Tory who was against the Iraq war, who supports closer co-operation with our European partners and likes drinking beer obviously needs to be thrown into Tower of London.

A party that advocates wealth creation, keeping tax to a reasonable minimum and personality responsibility can’t be all bad. However it seems to me, a significant amount of people who support the right can be greedy, narrow-minded, unsympathetic, homophobic and racist which is out of step with modern Britain. Yes – immigration is an issue which should be discussed but if this is conducted in such a one-sided and exaggerated way that does not also include the benefits this country has had from immigration and takes precedent over other issues such as education, transport, health and environment which was hardly mentioned at the last election – then the Tories don’t deserve to be back in power.

Yet, despite the glee many have of the pathetic weakness and out of touch mentality of the current state of the Tories, I believe any government, especially with Blair’s presidential style of spin-doctors, control-freakry, war-mongery and continual erosion of personal liberty, there needs to be a strong opposition. Over the last eight years – it has been Labour backbenches who have been the unofficial opposition. Unfortunately looking back at the last 15 years I cannot tell much difference from Major and Blair’s government except Blair has a better PR and televisual smile. Blair even nicked the Tories spending plans for his first 2 years to bury the ghosts that Labour couldn’t balance a budget.

In disgust of the two main parties I have long since transferred my vote to the Liberal Democrats. Now, whilst they have their flaws, they at least seem the most honest of the major parties. They are proud to be pro-European and socially liberal in their attitudes. Whilst I cannot see my vote ever going to the Tories or the alternative Tories (New Labour), I am interested in seeing that other parties do try and put their best people forward. Clarke is often derided as being divisive and that he would split the party from top to bottom but all indications is that he is popular to those who do not traditionally vote Tory.

Clarke has even cooled his love-affair with the Euro, admitting the UK would not join the european currency within 10 years. Unfortunately for them, it seems the Tories do not want to swallow their pride, elect a ‘leftie’ with Hush-puppies but are content to live in the past with their scrapbooks of Maggie’s victories cut out from yesteryear’s Daily Telegraph. But why vote for someone with experience and popularity when you have David Davis?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?