Peter Oborne (a candidate for Boris Johnson’s vacated post?) concludes a very interesting article in this week’s Spectator with these words:
"David Cameron has become Tory leader at an extraordinary moment, with Tony Blair’s Labour and Charles Kennedy’s Lib Dems not far from falling apart. Suddenly, in a very startling turn of events, the Conservatives are the only united party in British politics."
Mr Oborne lists four main reasons why British politics may be at a breaking point:
- Britain is now near the bottom of the world growth league. Gordon Brown’s taxes and regulations have finally caught up with him. The economic feel-good factor may no longer be on Labour’s side. As IDS has warned, however, a bad economy doesn’t necessarily help the opposition if Labour – like John Major in 1992 – can convince voters to ‘hold on to nurse for fear of something worse’.
- The collapse in Tony Blair’s standing. TB has dominated politics for a decade. He has confused the Conservative Party at every turn. His reign is now over. Oborne puts it brilliantly: "Blair remains at the centre of the political landscape, but as an almost irrelevant figure. He is simultaneously present and absent, a most curious state of affairs."
- Eurosceptic victory. Acceptance that the euro and EU constitution are not going to happen any time soon closes the faultline that has so injured the Conservative Party for the same Blair-dominated decade. Oborne: "The defeat of the federal dream in the French and Dutch referendums earlier this year seems to have brought this bitter and rotten period of Conservative politics to an end. In a healing moment, Hurd and (I hope) Patten will both come back into the Tory centre under David Cameron as significant members of his outer circle of advisers." Some of us – who don’t share Oborne’s views on Iraq – are not so keen!
- LibDem stasis. As noted on this site on Thursday, Cameron’s moderation and consensual approach poses a big threat to the LibDems. Oborne suggests that the LibDems are "in a state of inanition" (a new word for me). Charles Kennedy appears unable or unwilling to reconcile his party’s very different factions and the result is zero coherence on strategy and policy: "There are some senior Liberal Democrats who seem to advocate an old-fashioned corporate state and whose most articulate spokesman is Simon Hughes. Meanwhile there is a rising generation of buzzing, technocratic reformers. Neither faction has much, if any, respect for Charles Kennedy. Both factions yearn for a more dynamic leader. But there is no agreement on a replacement; quite the contrary. The Right of the Liberal Democrats greatly fear that disposing of Kennedy would simply have the undesired result of installing Simon Hughes… Many of the recent very damaging leaks about apparently improper Lib Dem financial dealings are thought to have come from within. It is a miracle that this comic state of affairs has not so far been brought to wider public attention."