2002 September 29 Sunday
John O'Sullivan on the Dianafication of UK Toryism

John O'Sullivan has written a fascinating essay on the follies of a party trying to brand itself using the basic emotional appeal that the opposing party is recognized for:

For the Tories, those issues historically include opposition to government waste and over-regulation; tax reduction and support for private enterprise; defence and patriotism. If they have temporarily lost the issue of economic competence, that should encourage them to stress some of the others, such as patriotism-which, in current circumstances, equals "Europe." Europe has the additional advantage that it enables the party to exploit not only patriotism but also opposition to government waste and over-regulation (not to mention outright fraud in the EU). Hardly mentioning such a central issue as Europe is far more "obsessive" than dealing with it straightforwardly. Exactly the same applies to tax cuts and over-regulation. For the Tories to allow themselves to be morally bullied by the media and New Labour into avoiding the precise issues where the voters think them most competent or trustworthy is simply silly. And if they coolly decide that some of these issues are no longer productive of votes, then they need to seek new issues where the right has a natural advantage.

To a significant number of Tories, however, all such arguments are no longer the stuff of politics. They have taken the nation's pulse, detected a growing warmth in the blood, and proposed a more emotional style of politics. Here what matters is not getting the right policy on health, but getting the right words on it-words that will persuade people that you are at one with the more relaxed, libertarian, multi-ethnic culture of modern Britain. This is the message of Portilloism. And although Portillo's politics of sensibility was squarely beaten by the rival versions of sense offered by Duncan Smith and Clarke, he seems in defeat to have converted the victor to his cause. Apostles of Portilloism now hold the high ground in central office and David Davis was allegedly ditched because he was unsympathetic to the new politics.

One sympathises with Davis and wonders at the insightfulness of Duncan Smith. For Portilloism is one of those doctrines that becomes less intelligible the more one understands it. It is not so much a programme, more a disposition, an attitude, an openness to emotions, experiences, and other people that manages all the same to be extremely self-regarding. It is, in short, the Dianification of Toryism.

I've been watching the Conservative Party in Britain from a distance for years and continue to be amazed at just how much a loss of confidence in their own core beliefs has sent them on a path that may take them all the way into oblivion. O'Sullivan nails their problems. They need to stop reacting to the Labour Party and present a set of policies that come from things they honestly believe (assuming the Tory leadership actually still believes in anything).

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 September 29 02:28 PM  Politics Anglosphere


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