I have always admired the aims of groups like Bright Blue who seek to modernise the Conservative Party towards a new, more moderate message. However, this pursuit, noble as it is, is ultimately futile. The Conservative Party cannot be saved and this has become more and more evident as time has gone on, subsequently resulting in a crisis of alienation and despair for the right.
Firstly, scandals have continued to plague the party from Jeremy Hunt’s office feeding information to Rupert Murdoch during his unsuccessful BSkyB bid. To Liam Fox’s improper conduct regarding his relationship with Adam Werrity. Further, these men were not only barely punished for their actions but also continued to play key roles within the party. Even the party leadership hasn’t been immune from this seemingly endless wave of scandal as former Prime Minister David Cameron ended up being caught up in the Panama papers scandal only a few years after criticising Jimmy Carr for the same behaviour. At the local level, the Conservative council of Kensington has been rocked by accusations following from the Grenfell tragedy. After which councillors apparently gagged bloggers and banned journalists from meetings to preserve their image.
Speaking of the image of the conservative party. The party’s attempt to combat their ‘evil’ stereotype has been severely hampered by headlines like ‘Young Tory activist wants to ‘gas chavs’ in leaked Whatsapp group’ or ‘Tory Cambridge University Students laughed about burning a £20 note in front of homeless man’. On top of this, other young activists have accused the party of bullying and even rape. And the party wonders why it doesn’t poll so favourably among the youth.
Racism has also been a constant unfortunate theme in the party’s history. Boris Johnson has been a key figure in this history with a string of at best, questionable statements. For example, in 2002 he referred to black people as ‘piccaninnies’ with ‘watermelon smiles’ in a column for the Daily Telegraph. Or in 2006 when he wrote that ‘blacks have lower IQ’s’ and that they were ‘multiplying like flies’. Despite these comments, however, as Boris not only remains a key member of the party elite but now represents this country abroad as Foreign Secretary. A post where he has already potentially jeopardized the life of a British citizen in Iran. This also doesn’t include the various local level racial infractions which have included racist, islamophobic and anti-semitic statements that have led to some members calling the party ‘endemically racist’ and ‘essentially racist’.
After Brexit, the current administration and the party have seemed to resemble what can only be described as participants in a ‘comedy of errors’. Mrs May’s talk of revising human rights law at her whim contrasted with the car crash that was her speech at the Tory conference, resembling a bumbling authoritarian. The manifesto for the 2017 election was also awash with authoritarian/nationalistic policy and sentiment with little ideological consistency. They claim themselves, defenders of free markets, while also pushing for market interference if there are too many foreign-born employees or if fuel costs are too high. Meanwhile, they also claim to be proponents of small government while attempting to erode human rights law.
So what now for the proponents of free markets and western values? The party doesn’t look like it is going to change, leading to a sense of alienation. This ‘political homelessness’ only fuels the political apathy reflected in increasingly lower electoral attendance. There are other parties that are proponents of these kinds of messages. The recently formed Libertarian Party has put a belief in the free market at the forefront of its philosophy. However, its stance on the NHS may raise some eyebrows among the moderate of the right. The toxic image of the Conservative party has seriously damaged the appeal, not only of the party but also the appeal of the right in general. The party cannot be saved and the right needs to galvanise behind a new political force.