October 10, 2003


Unhappy Times for the Tories and Their Lackluster Leader (WARREN HOGE, October 9, 2003, NY Times)

The despair afflicting the Conservatives this week stems largely from their inability to capitalize on the Labor lapses, and Mr. Duncan Smith is being held responsible by party members because of his unquestioning support of the war and his overall lack of impact.

The Tories have slipped slightly ahead of Labor in some polls, but their approval numbers have remained stuck in the low 30's, far from the 40 to 45 percent following they would need to have a chance of winning the next election.

Beyond its leadership battle, the party confronts longer range problems. It is deeply split between a traditional law and order wing known in political shorthand as authoritarians and a group with a more tolerant attitude known as modernizers who preach "compassionate conservatism."

Having lost all their seats in Wales, all but one in Scotland and many in urban areas throughout Britain, the Tories are in danger of becoming representative only of the English countryside or, as one of their leading figures, Archie Norman, warned Tuesday, "a rural minority interest on the opposition benches." Membership numbers are down to 250,000, the lowest in decades, and their average age is 65.

The path back to power goes through the cities and it depends on appealing to the nationalism of the working classes. The Tories, as Margaret Thatcher told them over ten years ago, need to be the anti-European party. Then tie the war on terror into people's fear of Britain's own radical Islamicist immigrant element. Top it all off with a campaign to privatize the welfare state, giving Brits control over their own retirement funds the same way Lady Thatcher made them homeowners. All of this will get the Tories to the Right of Labour for the first time since Tony Blair became party leader.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 10, 2003 9:50 AM
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