Since late 2010, I’ve always believed that Labour could wind up inadvertent allies with the Tory Right.
After all, we are united by our distrust of David Cameron.
Back then the Tory Right looked peeved but “managed”. The coalition project was ticking along, there was still growth in the economy, and memories of the Rose Garden were still fresh. So too were memories of the “Turnip Taliban”, where sections of the Tory grassroots were trashed in the press. Rows had ensued over candidates, many of whom were seen as Cameron stooges. It was used as an opportunity for the Tory hierarchy to paint their own grassroots as old fashioned, out of touch and borderline bigoted.
As a party management effort it was brutalist, but not wholly ineffective.
Yet ironically, Cameron’s beloved 2010 intake – a group he expended so much effort on getting into Westminster – are now the ones coming to get him. And some of the most the most vaunted newcomers have even written a book which seems designed to do just that, by dragging Cameron as far away from the political centre as possible.
The book, of course, is Britannia Unchained – a rip roaring read for those who think that the biggest cuts in modern history are a bit soft.
Jon Cruddas has an important critique of this Cameron-busting tract in today’s Guardian. Perhaps the most interesting section of his review is this:
“the authors of Britannia Unchained represent a project that is extreme and destructive, and which threatens the essential character of our nation. It is because this faction is in the ascendancy that Cameron is actually failing; he remains captive to an economic reductionism that could well destroy conservatism – in the proper sense of valuing and conserving the nature and assorted institutions of the country.
Cameron is not one of this crew. Tactically, in the short term he might survive; but in the medium term he is toast. The economic liberals’ march through the Conservative party will continue; every day there is less and less opposition, and they will eventually win.”
The barbarians are at Cameron’s gate, and no matter how far he moves in their direction, it will never be enough for them. They will destroy him, but he will cannibalise his own “Cameroon” agenda first in an attempt to survive – ether by co-opting elements of the unchained agenda or the authors themselves.
For Labour this is both a huge opportunity and a terrifying threat. On one hand, the Tory party seems hell bent on the detoxification if their party and the destruction of their single biggest electoral asset David Cameron. They want to pursue a Britain in which unfettered capitalism is allowed to run rampant – which post-crash is not going to be an easy sell for them. Despite some herculean efforts at revisionism, it was banks, not public spending, that crashed the global economy, meaning the unchained pill will likely be unswallowable for much of the electorate,
That’s the opportunity.
The threat is that if this group – once fringe, now increasingly mainstream in the Tory Party – actually gain power, it could leave the state not as something that can be repaired, but as rubble. They mean to dismantle the state – nothing less. Those of is who believe that government can do good things, should be very concerned by their ascendency.
But it the short term at least, perhaps not as scared as the Prime Minister.