Monday, March 27, 2017

Conservative members no longer believe in the Union - or Conservatism

These days everyone has tablets and smartphones and there is free wifi everywhere.

But I started blogging in an era when internet cafes were important to the citizen journalist.

You found them in every town, usually in the poorer quarters where overseas students gathered and wanted to make cheap phone calls home.

Many were not cafes at all – you could not even get a coffee – and I wouldn’t have logged in to any accounts involving money in them. But I do miss that heroic era of blogging.

I remember sitting in an internet cafe in King’s Lynn in 2009 and writing this post:
This insalubrious watering hole, just across the road from where I am writing this, is King's Lynn Conservative Club. 
Note the flag that is being flown outside. Until a very few years ago it would have been unthinkable for it to have flown anything but the Union Jack. 
Is this a sign that the average Conservative member, in this part of Norfolk at least, no longer feels much affection for the union?
It seems I was on to something.

Paul Goodman has an article in The Irish Times discussing a Conservative Home  and University of Winchester survey of Tory members:
We surveyed more than 700 Tory party members, and what we found was remarkable. 
Twenty-nine per cent said that the break-up of the union would “finally end the unreasonable demands on England to provide ever-greater financial and political concessions to Scotland”. 
If one added those who believe that this development would “have no real significance for the remaining parts of the UK” and those who think that “any problems could be managed”, that total rises to 66 per cent. Only 33 per cent of respondents said that it “would inflict serious damage on the power, influence and well-being of the remaining parts of the UK”. 
In other words, two in three of those Conservative Party members are sanguine about the end of the union. And more than one in four seem happy for it to happen.
Somewhere behind this shift from unyielding support for the Union lies a deep social change in the Tory Party.

The Conservatives used to speak for people who had a comfortable stake in things as they are. For that reason, as well as perfectly respectable philosophical ones, they were averse to change.

I remember a Labour-supporting friend who was in North Devon during the 1979 general election campaign speaking with something close to awe of the acres of good suiting on the platform at the Conservatives' meetings.

But the party does not look like or feel like that today.

The Tories have discovered ideology and, even more, they have discovered grievance. They are less the party of people with an interest in maintaining the status quo than the party of people who believe they have been cheated.

The culprits vary - immigrants, experts, the European Union, latte-drinkers, refugees, the BBC - but the feeling is widespread.

Only radical action, those members and activists believe, can remove the hurt and see justice done.

All political parties have an element of this about them, but there is something particularly strange about a Conservative Party that no longer believes in Conservatism.

That disjunction lies at the root of the mess Theresa May's government is about to make of the country.


Unknown said...

This sounds like they are all turning into Ukippers. They have lost their stable lives built on by others Equally get rid of the Union and England becomes a Conservative nationalist little england.

Anonymous said...

Of course, these days Conservatives in government are anarchists, willing to burn everything to get what they want - Brexit.