The trials of the Tories

Later today, Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, will face a vote of confidence in his leadership that he’s widely expected not to survive. (For those of you looking for blogged coverage during the day, I recommend British Politics, Anthony Wells, Iain Murray and our own Matthew Turner. We’re yet to have a blogging Conservative MP, but there’s some interesting perspectives from inside Westminster from the MPs Tom Watson and Richard Allan.)

In the short term, this election is unlikely to have much of an effect on the rest of Europe – the Conservatives’ policy towards EU matters is unlikely to change greatly whoever becomes the leader (the Europhile Ken Clarke is unlikely to run, let alone win after his two previous defeats) – but the plight of the Conservative Party does mirror that of the other parties, both left and right, who dominated European politics in the 80s and 90s. Many parties had extended periods in office, but were then swept out in the mid to late 90s, often in landslide elections, and many continue to find it hard to mount effective opposition today – the obvious examples are the French Socialists and various Italian parties, though Spain’s PSOE and Germany’s Free Democrats (if not the CDU/CSU) also fit the pattern.

There has been discussion in Britain of the possibility of a ‘realignment’ of British politics with the currently third placed Liberal Democrats (full disclosure: the party I belong to) passing the Conservatives to become the Opposition. While many Conservatives dismiss this as an unlikely scenario, there are precedents from Europe (and, of course, Canada) of seemingly dominant parties collapsing in a short time. Realignment is occurring in many European countries – there would be a certain irony if the process in Britain occurs because of the actions of the most Eurosceptic of the major parties.

3 thoughts on “The trials of the Tories

  1. The much discussed “realignment” will never happen for the simple reason that the Liberal Democrats have become even more left-wing than Labour!

    While people may feel comfortable casting protest votes for the Lib Dems during local elections, the prospect of giving real power to a party that is even more in love with tax-and-spend than Gordon Brown’s is enough to put the fear of God into the hearts of Middle England’s voters.

    Britain has no need for two main parties that are both left-wing in orientation, and there will always be a major berth in British politics for a right-wing, thoroughly conservative party, which the Liberal Democratic party will never be in a position to occupy.

  2. Abiola is asking the right question: has labour abolished the economic left-right dimension? If so, what could be the decisive cleavages in Britain? And how would the Libdems and Laboour represent them AGAINST each other?
    Something is going to happen given the abysmal state of the Tories. But what? I have no answer yet.

  3. I suspect that as long as there is a common enemy (increasing indifference to organised religion in European publics) then some unity between sects and even between faiths is inevitable. I’m less convinced that it goes much further than that.

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