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    Predefinito Acque agitate anche fra i Tories!

    Il blog di Simone Bressan, dopo aver segnalato anche lui le attuali divisioni in ambito repubblicano fra la Palin e l'establishment, ci sofferma sui problemi dei Tories e delle divisioni che già si palesano e di cui dà conto un articolo dell'Economist.


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    Predefinito Riferimento: Acque agitate anche fra i Tories!

    Bagehot

    Tory splits!


    Jul 16th 2009

    From The Economist print edition


    The cracks in the new Conservative Party—and the divisions to come



    Illustration by Steve O'Brien


    IN THE television programme “The Apprentice”, competitors plead with the boss to be kept on the show, back-stabbing and self-promoting in a gladiatorial face-off with their peers. It is raw, compelling viewing. It is also an analogue of the way in which the Conservatives intend to resolve one of the most fractious problems of public policy. That is one of several reasons to wonder whether the splits that once crippled their party may reappear.

    All of Britain’s big parties are rumbling coalitions of interests, attitudes and ambitions. Insurgent parties, such as the Tories under David Cameron, need to disguise their tears and seams to win. So far, he has done an impressive job of therapy and discipline. But, if you look hard enough, the cracks are still there.

    Unlike those in the Labour Party in the mid-1990s, when Tony Blair struggled to gag his less reconstructed colleagues, Tory splits are mostly not, for the time being, over policy. Some Tories are unmoved by the faddy theories that excite George Osborne, the shadow chancellor; some scoff at the cuddly rebranding Mr Cameron undertook; a few worry that he may prove more a damp-squib Heath than a revolutionary Thatcher. But the main clefts are chronological and clannish rather than ideological.

    There is, in general, something different about the newer Tory MPs. Those elected in 2001, as Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne were, and 2005, as was Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, did not slog through the demoralising years of the 1990s. They are younger and less neurotic than the earlier vintages about their party’s past. They also make up most of the elected element of the small cabal that now runs it (Oliver Letwin, the policy chief, and William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, are the obvious exceptions).

    Disgruntled Tory MPs describe a seigneurial party set-up, with Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne at the top, then a rank of appointed satraps: Ed Llewellyn, the leader’s chief of staff; Steve Hilton, his main strategist; and Andy Coulson, his controversial media man. Some senior Tories complain about lack of access to the boss; they make dark comparisons with Mr Blair’s corrosive elevation of spin doctors above his ministers. Some outside the shadow cabinet resent being passed over and neglected. That feeling was palpable even before the expenses scandal, over which some backbenchers say Mr Cameron showed indulgent favouritism to his acolytes, while sinking others in their moats.

    Of course, party leaders often have cliques and courts (judging by Mr Cameron, Mr Blair and Gordon Brown, four or five is the preferred size of the inner circle). And splits can split both ways: sometimes they suggest a party that is broad and tolerant, rather than a tribe of line-toeing automatons. That was part of the rationale for bringing craggy Ken Clarke back to the front bench. For now, the prospect of a general-election victory has plaster-casted the most painful Tory fractures. The danger for Mr Cameron is that they reopen after he moves into Downing Street—aggravated by the means he uses to get there.

    You’re cut!

    If the Tories win, they will send a startling number of new MPs to Westminster, especially given the large number of impending retirements by sitting ones, voluntary and otherwise. In theory this infusion represents Mr Cameron’s chance to replace the parliamentary cadre he inherited with one moulded in his image. In practice, as a survey by Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Intelligence has shown, many of the novices may prove awkwardly independent. Most will not owe their places to Mr Cameron’s list of preferred candidates. They will be even more devoutly Eurosceptic than the classes of 2001 and 2005. Meanwhile, the residue of old MPs will contain some whom Mr Cameron’s centralised party-management has alienated. These elements will help to make up what may be a small Tory majority.

    It may not be long before some of the ideological ruptures that seem to have healed burst. Europe is one risk: if the EU’s Lisbon treaty is in force when Mr Cameron takes office, and he swallows it, the diehard rejectionists whom his ambiguity on the issue has kept in line may revolt. Meanwhile, depending on external events, the broader disagreement on foreign policy between the Tory realists and neocons—which Mr Cameron has tried to straddle, and which anyway seems somewhat moot in opposition—may become stark. Ditto the private doubts held by some senior Tories about their party’s right-on stance on civil liberties. Then there is Mr Cameron’s wrongheaded determination to promote marriage through the tax system—and, more explosively, the tax-cutting instinct that the party has temporarily suppressed, and which economic necessity may require Mr Cameron to thwart.

    So to “The Apprentice”. Part of the Tories’ plan for fixing the finances involves a fiscal version of the show. Cabinet ministers who want more cash than the Treasury offers them would plead their case before their peers, stating whose budget the extra funds should come from. Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne would adjudicate, pronouncing “you’re cut!” instead of “you’re fired!”. The aim is to instil collective responsibility for the inevitable squeeze. But the process may inspire rancour rather than harmony: no one wants to be history’s most reviled defence secretary, or the education supremo known for shutting primary schools. A few will worry about the impact on their chances of succeeding Mr Cameron (for all the other trouble, Mr Brown’s status as Mr Blair’s heir created a sort of stability for Labour in this regard).

    The underlying problem may be maintaining unity amid what could prove to be acute unpopularity. Mr Cameron should start now, by clarifying his European policy and his fiscal strategy while his position is strong. And he should pamper his MPs: he may think he doesn’t need them now, but he might soon.



    Economist.com/blogs/bagehot

    Bagehot: Tory splits! | The Economist

 

 

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