The battle for the Conservative Party must be played out publicly
Big tent conservatism is all well and good until people have various limbs in various tents
A puritanical, textbook based conservatism is an impossible ideal, yet when we refer to conservative political parties as ‘broad churches’ or ‘big tents’ we must remember that these should not include those with a foot in more than one tent, or with various appendages in numerous houses of worship.
When Tim Montgomerie, in his editorial in ConservativeHome today outlines that the British Conservative Party needs to pull together more, rather than battling on a factional basis, what he does is call for an unnatural alliance between what is better described as a centre-left executive and a centrist party with a few dozen right-wingers in its midst.
No, we’re not calling for mass defections to UKIP – although that would be a matter of both conscience and practicality for any Tory to consider, should he or she feel that the Conservatives no longer offer enough… conservatism.
Instead, for the good of the country and the party, the more right-thinking conservatives in the party should refuse to kowtow to liberal elites and 1922 committee centrists and careerists. They should declare war of their counterparts.
What is meant by ‘war’ in a situation of this sort is a variegated response to what has increasingly become an untenable Conservative Party. The Cameroons simply will not stand the test of time - but what is left to fill the void is unclear. Winning an ideological war within the party would not consist of tactics to undermine the current executive or lampoon and lambaste fellow members, but rather to effectively propagandise (hearts and minds, remember?) and convince from an intellectual standpoint, why though debatable, more traditional conservative policies are the route to lasting parliamentary majorities and more importantly, a stronger, more united, more fiscally durable and indeed ‘fairer’ Britain.
Sadly, while there is talent in amongst the backbenches, there seems to be either a reluctance or refusal to engage at a philosophical level on these issues. Taking the fight to each other, rather than to the opposition has often been viewed as self-destructive. Far from it.
If the Conservative party can set up a national discourse between itself and itself – it can create conditions that renders the more traditional opposition of Labour and the Liberal Democrats ineffective and uninteresting in the eyes of the media and the public.
We’ve seen this happen before, albeit in an unplanned and therefore ineffective way. The nation was gripped at one point between the struggle between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The same has occurred in the United States, when the Rockefeller Republicans battled against the Goldwater conservatives. If these battles had been played out in a more set-piece, consistent and productive manner, they could have pulled a lot attention away from the opposition and reflected positively on the parties involved. It's a risk, sure - but calculated risks often lead to electoral precedents. If the Republican Party had been smarter over the past few years, it would have leveraged the Tea Party in this manner rather than maligning them and allowing a takeover by evangelists and conspiracy theorists. Another example of the inter-party debate done wrong has been the GOP primary season and seemingly endless primary debates.
Perhaps the sobriquet for this endeavour - ‘war’ – is a bit unpalatable. Nonetheless an enhanced, high-brow but also public facing (we’ll need some good PR here, chaps) debate within the Conservative Party can both set right its manifesto and reinvigorate the public behind the notion of conservatism.
If you believe, as we do, that more people are natural conservatives than the Left insists and the Conservatives seem to accept, you’ll endorse such a battle, too.
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