Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rafael Behr dissects the Conservatives' discontent

Rafael Behr hits a whole row of ducks in his latest New Statesman article.

Tory attitudes to Labour:
The Tories are perplexed. Most were convinced that Miliband’s leadership was a re-enactment of their experience under Iain Duncan Smith – a decent fellow, promoted beyond his powers. Conservative MPs watched with surprise and relief as Labour ignored the script and failed to mount a coup. Some were scornful of the opposition’s apparent lack of gumption. It has taken a while for the Tories to recognise that they even have an adversary.
The puncturing of George Osborne:
George Osborne’s reputation as a political mastermind has been shredded. He is defended by a phalanx of protégé MPs from the 2010 intake but older hands complain about his dual role as Chancellor and party election strategist, muttering that neither can be done well on a part-time basis.
Pleasingly (if a little surpisingly) the efficiency of Nick Clegg's office:
the Deputy Prime Minister’s office at 70 Whitehall has emerged as an effective power base for Nick Clegg. Even some Tories grudgingly concede that the Lib Dem leader has the more functional team. An on­going source of irritation for Conservatives is that advisers who report to Clegg sit in N0 10, while Cameron has no equivalent agents at the heart of the Lib Dem wing at Whitehall. The imbalance feeds the Tories’ suspicion that their coalition partners feign unity, then sneak around corners to plot subterfuge.
The ungovernability of the Tory backbenches:
Clegg’s influence over policy is resented all the more because it seems so disproportionate to his party’s popularity ratings. Every opinion poll putting the Lib Dems in single-digit parity with the UK Independence Party reinforces the backbench Tory conviction that their coalition partners are weaklings and saboteurs who keep kicking the Prime Minister’s shins in a desperate bid to be noticed. Cameron’s compromises are therefore despised as capitulations. It is a dynamic that breeds a virulent strain of rebellion in a small but noisy minority of MPs. “Their anger with Nick is really a proxy for anger with Cameron,” warns one Lib Dem minister. “They are fuelled by the certainty that, far from being disloyal in making trouble for the Prime Minister, they are being loyal to the ideal of Conservatism.”
And the need for Lib Dem discipline:
The original idea was to share kudos with Osborne for having fixed the nation’s finances in time for an election in 2015. That could quickly become a rush to exchange blame for making things worse. Labour is praying for just such a collapse in its opponents’ discipline.
The only thing wrong with it is the attempt at an extended tennis metaphor. Ducks are better.

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