The deepest schism in British politics at the moment is not between the governing Coalition and the official Opposition, the Labour Party, nor even between the occasionally warring Coalition partners (Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) themselves. It is within the Conservative Party itself where a large group of Members of Parliament, backed by much if not all of the dominant Right Wing media, are increasingly at odds with the Government. Isn’t it time that this Tory Right, which gets media coverage quite disproportionate to its true political significance, realised how damaging the playing of the games they play is to the national interest? An ex Tory Minister, Michael Portillo, and an ex Conservative MP, Matthew Parris have tried to rally the dwindling bunch of the faithful and showed not only that respected Conservative figures like them can take a sane approach to major issues of these times. They also showed up the venality of so many in the Tory chattering classes who continuously seek to undermine the position of their Prime Minister and his Government.
The battles being fought by the Conservative Right are the same old battles, mainly over Europe, that once challenged Cameron’s Tory PM predecessor John Major and, of course, they constantly claim that only they speak for the Party’s grass roots â€“ a rather arrogant and tendentious presumption. And in all of this intra Party games-playing the national interest doesn’t feature at all, except in the simplistic and insular way that the Right defines it. It could be seen as downright unpatriotic â€“ as well as being grossly disloyal.
The version of Toryism peddled by the Right is rooted in the past. Parris and Portillo are the realists who not only know that it is an ideology that is wrong but also that a manifesto based on it would be soundly rejected in an Election. It is not just on social issues that most of us in Britain have moved on. The claim that the public at large is profoundly anti-European Union (as the Right asserts to back their Eurosceptic stance) is unproven at this time because the debate has notã€€been properly conducted. The popular press enjoys berating the EU – and people do subliminally absorb the headlines that this produces. The one thing you can say about the otherwise dangerous idea for an “In/Out” EU referendum is that for the first time in recent times the pro Europe case would be put to the people.
But what of these tiresome Tory squabbles – why should we worry if the Tory Right go on playing these games? There is never a scintilla of originality in their arguments and it is clear that for many it is just a misguided belief that the route to Power lies on the Right of the political road. It doesn’t – the 2010 General Election showed where the majority public mood was and it wasn’t in favour of the line that we hear from the Eurosceptics and their fellow travellers. Tories should leave the Europhobia and the rest of this dated baggage to the bothersome extreme Nationalists of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and ignore this silly Partyâ€™s temporary strength in the Opinion Polls (a “Plague on all your houses” option if ever I saw one). If the case for One Nation Conservatism was properly put it would not only support David Cameron at a time when he needs help, but it would return us to a greater degree of national consensus about policy which can only be desirable. And it would be intellectually sound and honest as well.