The modern day leaders of the Tory Party are often characterised as young men in a hurry. So much so that Dave, George and chums appear to be fast forwarding through government.
It may be unfair to compare the Cameron “victory” of 2010 with the Blair landslide of 1997. For starters, whilst Blair had a whopping great three figure majority, Cameron limped over the line to Number 10 using Nick Clegg as a crutch. The extended honeymoon period enjoyed by Blair – which in hindsight feels like it lasted right through to the second landslide of 2001 – lasted for Cameron only as long as it took to hire and fire his first cabinet minister, David Laws. The Rose Garden petals were compost by Christmas.
Since then the government seems to have created the political equivalent of the perpetual motion machine, constantly driving itself
forward – yet, slowly at first and then violently, swiveling off their axis.
The major revolts, the sops to the backbenches, the policy changing strops from the rank and file – all have happened far sooner in this
parliament than might otherwise have been expected. Last week’s reshuffle was reminiscent of the latter days of Gordon Brown – an
exercise more in refreshing the appearance of the cabinet than changing much in the way of policies.
But if proof were needed that the Tory Party are fast forwarding their way through government (and perhaps back towards the oblivion of opposition), it comes today with the founding of new Tory Right pressure group “Conservative Voice”. You only set up a campaigning group like this – one that seems ideologically opposed to the leadership – if you are feeling ignored and marginalised. In many ways it’s reminiscent of the founding of Compass, but that was six years into a Labour government, not two. Like Compass, Conservative Voice believes that votes are being lost to other parties (for Compass it was the Lib Dems, for Conservative Voice, UKIP). Like Compass, Conservative Voice believes itself to be both in tune with the majority of party members and likely to yeild a vote winning agenda. But whilst Compass was founded whilst there was – quite literally – a war on, Conservative Voice is founded in the aftermath of obstructionism over Lords Reform.
To have reached the point where a faction of this nature is founded just over two years into government will send a further shiver down the already jittery spine of the Prime Minister. Much of the Conservative Voice agenda sounds like the right wing ravings of his 2010 intake. Much of the Conservative Voice agenda sounds like it could easily be taken up by Boris, or any number of other Tory Right assailants. Much of Conservative Voice sounds like the ideologically pure Thatcherism that Cameron’s leadership was meant to be a break with.
It has become fashionable to mock those who argue that Labour is united in opposition, and indeed, we are not as united as we could be. But compared to the Tory Party, with open attacks on the “arrogant posh boy” leadership, freshly minted right wing factions and uncontrollable backbenchers, we’re the bloody Brady Bunch.