Wednesday, October 29, 2003

A Fistful of Euros: The trials of the Tories

A Fistful of Euros

Well, it finally happened. Letter number 25 arrived a day after IDS demanded that the plotters move by Wednesday. (not that he had any way of preventing them from writing in after Wednesday, but let that pass) Now we will all have the free entertainment of a Tory election. They aren't really very good at elections - after all, the original tories existed to limit the franchise and support the King - and last time around they managed to have an election that neither chose nor rejected anybody. It's usually only the Swiss who do this sort of thing, but then they mean it. The important bit is, naturally, what becomes of British democracy in the event of the strange death of Conservative England. Can a democracy fly with only a left wing? Especially in a country as rightwing as Britain. We've got to admit that - just look and listen to them!

I really wonder what the country would be like without Tories - would the Labour Party, or at least the Blair content of it, swing to the right and become something like a European christian democratic outfit, as Roy Hattersley frequently accuses Blair of being? That would imply a large Liberal Democracy to the left flank, overlapping on many economic issues but well to the left on the liberal/authoritarian scale, privatisation and foreign policy. And they would doubtless pick up the defectors from the new new Labour. Or would some of those go to the hard left? Even if the Blair party would probably be capable of gathering much of the conservative camp, surely the tribal right of the Conservatives would reject and struggle on as a rump (Real Tories?). Or would they go BNP? There are simply too many Conservative voters around for the right wing to remain empty. If Labour and the Liberals were to stay where they are on the spectrum and compete, they would be disenfranchised, easy meat for a British Le Pen phenomenon.

A vision of the future - a discredited Labour party sprawled over the centre, the Blair team following instinctively their Bill Clinton/Dick Morris 1995 triangulation obsession to the right, the party pulling left, Brown and Robin Cook competing for the spiritual leadership of the Left, a much bigger Liberal party to the Left - and a 30%+ BNP or similar block. Horrible, isn't it? Especially as whatever Tory representation was left would very likely be partly in sympathy with the fascists. I've always enjoyed the spectacle of Tories suffering, it's a gut Labour instinct that survives resignation, disillusion, betrayal - but we really have to worry about the social structure without them. Perhaps in the end the best thing would be the departure to the Right of some people in the Labour Party and greater pluralism in parliament. In a proportional representation world, you could imagine the Tory divisions resolving themselves into a Stahlhelmfraktion of Tebbitite diehards and a liberal, business-conservative grouping, as well as a big Lib Dem representation and a Green presence at the other end. It might make politics more complicated, but it would at least make for balance. Maybe the answer to the challenge of realignment is to have more realignment.

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