UK election results reflect need for compelling, not compassionate conservatism

After Britain's Conservatives were thumped in local elections, how can we regain the country without shifting left?

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"Is this thing on?" Does Cameron's Conservatism resonate with voters?
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The Commentator
On 5 May 2012 06:44

With the debacle of the ‘lost boxes’ on the night that London was due to declare its Mayor for the London Olympics and beyond, one could have been forgiven for tuning out at 9pm and frankly not giving a damn in the morning.

But the results are now in and we are pleased to report that while the race was bizarrely close, Boris Johnson is to see London through the next four years. Our delight at this decision from London stems not just from our right-headed disdain for Ken Livingstone, but from positive feelings towards Boris’ legacy and his policies going forward.

Enough sycophancy, let’s talk about the results!

Nationally, it is safe to say the Conservative Party took the drubbing that many would say it deserved. While staying out of touch with the party base and having had some of the worst four months of government since the Brown years, who could have predicted otherwise? Tory Party strategists, of course – whose heads have remained firmly in the chai tea latte infused clouds throughout the recent problems.

We imagine that David Cameron and his small circle of advisors thought that last year’s EU veto was the bone that the party base needed to get them to rally around their leader for the remainder of the coalition government. This gross miscalculation serves to highlight the chasm between the Tory executive and their traditional voters.

It is true, as has been reflected upon by Conservative councillors, members of parliament and even ministers today, that the party lost its connection on issues from crime to gay marriage and from Lords reform to taxation. As The Commentator heard from a senior Conservative Party activist yesterday, “The Conservative Party isn’t yet a centre-left party. It’s just a very, very centrist party.” Hmmm.

As so even Ken Livingstone was boosted by the fall in Tory support nationally. In London, Boris’s record coupled with his charisma should have delivered him a secure second term for London, yet the Cameron curse forced his re-election down to the wire.

This plague has also been set upon Liberal Democrat houses, who suffered extraordinary defeats in the council elections and who had their candidate in London, Brian Paddick, finish in fourth behind the Green Party.

So why are so many conservative pundits now urging the Tories not to ‘lurch right’? Partly, it’s because conservative journalists are forced by their jobs and circumstances to be more conciliatory and ‘helpful’ in their remarks. That is assuming that the so-called 'help' comes in the form of a shoulder to cry on. But often it doesn’t. Help often arrives in the form of stern words, strong actions and vigorous warnings about the path that friends tread.

The Conservative Party must view this election as a warning from both the electorate and the grassroots that quite frankly, they are beginning to fall into the gap between the two, rather than, as a good political party should, bring electorate and the grassroots together. Instead of releasing their activists upon the public to change hearts and minds, they have consistently disallowed them a voice. Instead of telling the electorate why conservatism is the route forward, it has tried to own the ‘progressive’ ground.

The Commentator is not in favour of a ‘lurch right’ – nor do we think that given the scope of Western centre-right politics, that we are particular right-wing. We’re just not social democrats, welfarists or Keynesians. We call a spade ‘a spade’, a duck ‘a duck’ and a deficit ‘a deficit’. If conservative politicians took that approach they may well find themselves the bearers of truth and the bastions of reality in the eyes of an electorate which may otherwise be naturally inclined to vote for what they perceive to be their short term interests in a broadly social democratic, socio-economic setting.

Even as Tory strategists make clear that in many ways, the Conservative-led coalition is undertaking reforms that even the great Lady Thatcher balked at, or handling larger deficits, or dealing with more strife abroad – it cannot continue to do so with a whimper and an apology. The Conservative Party must be vocal and robust in what it stands for, how it represents and empowers its activists and why conservatism, not a third or fourth way, is right for Britain.

You’ll notice we haven’t mentioned the Labour Party once throughout this piece. That is because the above truths are objective and not reliant on any form of opposition. We at The Commentator hold these truths to be self-evident… 

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