Saturday 2 November 2013

The Tories Wither On the Vine

It is not often Michael Heseltine gets things right, but he hit the nail on the head in his otherwise risible performance on the Sunday Politics.

When asked about John Major's speech which included an intervention on fuel prices (7:20), Heseltine said: "I myself was more interested in the other part of his speech....the need for the Conservative Party to recognise what is happening to's membership is shrinking into a southeastern enclave."


Reading between the lines, this could well be the fate of the Tory party. Outside of the well-heeled home counties, support for the party is fading away. UKIP is taking a considerable percentage of the old "Thatcher Tories" vote - those aspirant working class and lower middle class voters notoriously labelled  the 'C2s' in the jarring marketing argot. Even in rural areas, where support for the Conservative Party is still weighed rather than counted, recent reports suggest that support is not as solid as it once was.

There are many reasons why this should be so: the ever-increasing concentration of wealth in London and the South East stockbroker belt plus rampant immigration has left poorer rural areas and "Essex man" voters feeling the pinch alike. As a result, these former Tory heartlands are increasingly vunerable to growing UKIP support. The whole situation is not exactly helped by Cameron's decidedly metropolitan leadership which to put in mildly does not come across as sympathetic to these area's concerns.

However, as valid as these reasons are, there are long term reasons for the Tory decline in these demographics that they will find it very hard to recover from. To understand why, you have to understand that the Conservative Party isn't really at heart a "conservative" party at all, it is a Tory party, dedicated above all to preserving elite power and privilege.

Arguably, during the past few decades the Conservative party has done as much if not more damage to institutions and traditions that people of modest backgrounds relied on to prosper. It can be argued that the three most important of these are (were) family, national identity and grammar schools. Of these three, the so-called  Conservative party initiated and engaged enthusiastically in the destruction of the first two and stood idly by as Labour maliciously destroyed to third. It was the Conservative Party, during the Chancellorship of Ken Clarke, who started the revocation of the marriage tax allowance. It was the Conservative Party, of course, that signed us to the then the European Economic Community in 1973 and have had a more or less disgraceful record on the subject of "Europe" ever since. As for grammar schools, although their demise was initially a result of the Labour education minister Tony Crosland's malevolence, it suited high Tory purposes that these were levelled down to "bog-standard comprehensives" because it meant less competition for their own, usually privately educated, children.

The results of this vandalism are all visible all around us: an ill-educated, socially-immobile, confused and demoralised population reeling from the effects of family breakdown and a rapid weakening of national identity. A properly "conservative" party would surely have defended all these institutions and more with gusto. However, because their survival  meant little to the elite they completely failed to do so. Yes, the Left have taken full advantage of circumstances to make the situation indescribably worse, but they would not have been able to advance their  multi-cultural sub-marxist ideology to anything like the same extent they have if the Tories had not been asleep on the watch.

Many of the more dim-witted and myopic Tories blame the rise of UKIP as the cause, not a symptom, of their travails. However, the reality is that the rot was well set in long before UKIP arrived on the scene. The Times  journalist Matthew Parris once came up with a great metaphor to describe how political change happens in society, likening it to the tipping of gravel into a swamp. For a long time no change seemed to be occurring on the surface, but all the time underneath the pile of gravel continues to build, until one day it breaks the surface. Arguably that is what the rapid rise of UKIP represents - long neglected voters are finally in revolt. A similar process is also underway in Labour voting heartlands, as the ever more marxist Labour Party becomes progressively estranged from the concerns of it's core voting demographic.

The Tories are finally waking up to the need to change, and are now making substantial efforts in order to re-engage with the voters. Doubtless their efforts will meet with some success, and UKIP should by no means be complacent in under-estimating the threat that the ideas of Douglas Carswell could pose to our party. However, in the great scheme of things it is almost certainly too late to reverse the decline entirely: the neglect, contempt and betrayal felt by many previously conservative-voting demographics is so deep-rooted that millions will find it extremely hard to trust the party again. Instead, many seem to be attracted to UKIP as a new, energetic and (largely) unsullied rival. A future as a minority, perhaps even south-eastern regional, party seems the best the Conservatives can hope for.