Posts Tagged ‘Tory splits’

Tory splits offer Labour an opportunity

16/06/2014, 12:57:56 PM

by Jonathan Todd

The Tories now have a great deal of confidence after Newark, wrote the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman on 6 June. The rebelliousness of their backbenches, especially the 2010 intake, has been one of the features of this parliament. Newark marked the first time in a quarter of a century that they retained a seat in a by-election in government, which followed the local and European elections that indicated they are well placed for 2015 if they can recover those who defected from them to UKIP. The smell of success and bigger success to come, sharpened backbench Tory focus.

As soon as discipline returned to the Tory backbenches, however, it spectacularly deserted their frontbench. The mutually assured damage of public airing of policy differences between Michael Gove and Theresa May makes events inexplicable, not least as they cast a shaft of light on a political terrain that must undermine the Tory general election cause: the world beyond David Cameron. No party wants to face election with a diminished leader and Cameron is now likely to face the question that dogged Tony Blair throughout the 2005 general election: “If elected, will you serve a full term?”

A decade ago, the “buy Blair, get Brown” deal was deemed acceptable – without great enthusiasm but sufficiently palatable to return Labour to a third term in government. While George Osborne harbours hopes of becoming party leader and prime minister in the next parliament, it’s doubtful that he wishes to fight the general election on a similarly joint ticket. The antics of one of his supposed backers, Michael Gove, makes this more likely, however.

Gove has a habit of getting into unnecessary arguments. He first entered my consciousness as a panellist at a debate on the Iraq war in 2003 in Shoreditch Town Hall, organised by the Foreign Policy Centre. My only memory is of him berating an audience member for what he saw as a faulty interpretation of the Glorious Revolution. I also recall Allegra Stratton – now Newsnight’s political editor, then one of the organisers of debate – skipping about the place. I don’t know whether this reveals anything substantive about her character but the cantankerous first impression that Gove left me with does appear telling.


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The conventional wisdom is wrong, David Cameron has been strengthened by the Tory rebellion on gay marriage

06/02/2013, 07:00:42 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Tory splits, MPs in open revolt and a beleaguered Conservative prime minister; it all seems rather 1990s. Labour tacticians are rubbing their hands in barely concealed glee. The political fall-out will be devastating, or so the conventional wisdom goes.

Weak leadership, political incompetence and an out of touch party do indeed dominate today’s news stories. And Labour does seem to be receiving a poll boost from this latest bout of Tory fratricide.

But David Cameron is not John Major, and in the medium term he will be strengthened by the rebellion.

Three points differentiate what happens next for the current prime minister from the fate of his Conservative predecessor.

First, the vote was won. Even with the Tory rebellion, this bill which David Cameron has staked so much upon, will become law. Yes, it was only won with Labour and Lib Dem votes, but to the general public this is a nuance: the prime minister emerged triumphant.

In the 1990s, the truly memorable occasions were when John Major was defeated.  Think Maastricht or VAT on fuel, few remember the countless near defeats where Major somehow squeaked through. A win is a win and Cameron will now have a genuine legacy achievement to point to.

Second, by taking on his party, Cameron has defined very clearly that he is a different type of Conservative to most of the rest of his colleagues. While many of his MPs do their level best to live up to the billing “same old Tories”, Cameron is vividly showing how he isn’t.

One of the mistakes the Tories made under both William Hague and Michael Howard was failing to understand how their stance on individual issues impacted the public’s overall view of the party.

Their obsession with Europe and immigration might have made for good day to day headlines, and been popular with sections of the electorate, but at election time, mainstream voters looked at the Tories and concluded that if they were this right-wing on Europe and immigration, then they would probably also privatise the NHS and laugh as pensioners starved in their freezing homes.

By taking a liberal stand on gay marriage, David Cameron has helped buy himself the benefit of the doubt from voters on all the other issues where they might suspect a traditional Tory.


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