Cameron; Toff at the top

The Dispatches programme last night, Cameron; Toff at the top explained the concerns of many Conservatives and conservatives with the way modern British politics is going.

As I have said to others more and more recently, if the public don't agree with the Conservatives and so are described by the media as 'unelectable' then that is what they should be. It is quite wrong to look at what you think the electorate want and then change to be that. You are then not governing, you are responding.

I do blame Blair for moving to the right and it is interesting that both 'sides' have moved in so close to each other, but it is also worrying. I do not agree with Peter Hitchens, though, that to be a worried Conservative you need to be a social conservative. I am vehemently not: I can support Civil Partnerships and the promotion of social mobility without finding myself fairly represented by Cameron's mood music and initial policies.

The environment, positive discrimination, taxation, uncontrolled immigration and the love of hoodlums are all policies that Conservatives should agree upon to at least some extent. And yet Cameron has managed to take a position on most of these issues that many people disagree with.

Peter Hitchens is right, too, to warn of the likely gains that the BNP will make at the next election as a result of the main parties deserting people's concerns. The door is open for the UK Independence Party to gain from this mess but it has to be careful that it doesn't attract would-be BNP supporters. The UK Independence Party is in the same tricky position as many Conservatives.

Let me explain: since 1994 Conservatives have been defending themselves from accusations of being "nasty" or illiberal. Those accusations had been coming from the people who voted for Major in 1992 (more than voted for Thatcher in 1987 interestingly) as much as from the Labour Party. Since 1997 it has been, in modern parlance, not cool to be a Conservative.

But now, since the Cameron effect, it is cool. The shy-Tory effect has probably gone into reverse and, I suspect, some of Cameron's poll lead is due to the new shy-New Labourite effect. Hugging trees and being seen as a "nice guy" is enough for people to stop disliking the Conservatives. Unfortunately, while this would have been enough, Cameron has seen fit to change the party's position on formerly-Conservative issues.

What this risks, though, is making those Conservatives who disagree with Cameron, appear "uncool" again. We who would rather have tough punishments for those who don't care that society has rules, we who would rather people were treated as individuals rather than as genders or ethnic groups and we who would rather have national rule rather than EU rule must find a way of expressing that belief without sounding like we oppose the 'nice' aspects of Cameron.

Being liberal but firm, Conservative but not conservative and not supportive of Cameron's strategic direction does not mean 'nasty' or 'illiberal' (obviously, you would think).

Those on the right-wing (now you see the problem I've described above) need a charismatic, strong and believeable leader. We need someone who can make our political case without losing the PR battle that Blair and Cameron have appealed to since 1994. Politics has changed, in a terrible way, and we need a representative of the just political wing — soon.

Surprisingly, for an A-lister, Iain Dale doesn't agree: Iain Dale's Diary: TV Review: Tory Toff by Peter Hitchens


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