Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Gap in the Line

The great problem for the Conservative Party recently has been its lack of space. Blairite Labourism has, to a great extent, outflanked the Tories on rhetoric, which is after all what seems to resonate with the public. What is the point of the Tories when Tony Blair can declare without a blush, and seemingly without laughter, that the criminal justice system is in disarray and needs reorganisation?

Blair and his crowd have been churning out Criminal Justice Acts at a phenomenal rate, and yet can stil, seemingly, splurge the blame for any particular crisis off on 'the establishment'. If even the Prime Minister can blame the establishment for problems, what is an opposition to do?

So if the Government has the market cornered in anti-establishment rhetoric, where does the opposition go? Normally, the oppo picks up anti-Government votes from those sick of the manifold weaknesses that manifest themselves in any administration after a while. Yet for the Tories, these votes have been sewed up by the Lib Dems. Posing on the national scale as the 'nice party' while displaying considerable lack of scruple at the local level, the Lib Dems have effectively deprived the Tories of the classic protest vote.

But this looks like it might be about to change. Poor old Ming Campbell, for whom I have a lot of sympathy, has been a disaster as leader. He has, as has been noted, risen to the leadership without ever having been really tested. His reputation as a safe pair of hands has collapsed in a series of extremely nervous performances as Lib Dem leader at PMQs. Guido is convinced, not without evidence, that his medication isn't helping. Dr Crippen has stated that his statistical chances are not much better than 40% before the next election.

But this lacuna leaves a grat opportunity for the Tories. If they are going to win even the largest number of seat at the next election, they need not only to make inroads in the north, they need to demolish the Lib Dem strongholds in the south-west. Take a brief look at the electoral calculus if you doubt this. The weakness of Ming provides an unexpected opportunity for this to become possible.

The next point is that the north has largely been loyal to Labour in the hope that Gordon Brown will be a breath of fresh red air. Much of the remaining Labourites are only remaining loyal in the desperate hope that Brown will re-introduce unilateral disarmament and nationalisation. When they discover that Brown is far less old-fashioned than they hope, where will they go?

So, provided that the Tories don't lose their nierve, and persist in their current strategy, admirably outlined by FA below, I can see a good deal of cheer in the not too distant future...


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