TCS Daily

Tory Spilling

By Andrew Ian Dodge - January 6, 2006 12:00 AM

As we start the New Year, the new leader of Britain's Conservative Party, David Cameron, is changing policy at a blistering pace. His allies, friends and enforcers are insisting that anyone who resists change does not want to win elections. Quite a few differ on more than one point.

To his credit, Cameron seems intent on pursuing the one policy promise he made to those to his right: that of taking the Tory Members of the European Parliament out of the ultra-pro-integration European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament. Those people who are against this move rail that Tory MEPs will be sitting with the "far-right" if they leave. This is not true. Others protest that it is such a minor issue that it is a waste of the Party's time. The truth is that many Tory MEPs who disagree with this move fear losing the perks of membership of a large grouping in the Parliament.

The Daily Telegraph stressed the importance of getting this right:

Mr Cameron's integrity, as well as his party's, is now at stake. Leaving the EPP was the only unequivocal promise he made during the recent leadership campaign. Failing to deliver on the one thing he can do in opposition would make voters doubt his ability to deliver in government.

Further, it could be said that there will be a lot of rather annoyed, embarrassed and angry right-wingers if he does not pull this off. Some MEPs, such as Dan Hannan, probably supported Cameron's leadership solely on this issue.

One thing Cameron does not need is more highly agitated non-centrists. He, or rather his lackeys at Conservative Headquarters, have been busy culling the party's candidate list of anyone who is male, heterosexual and white. I understand that they have culled more than 400 able bodied highly motivated Tory candidates from their list. This policy is justified by the minions as an attempt to make the Conservative Party more reflective of "modern Britain". It doesn't matter if one has stood for a seat before, is a sitting Councilor or has been successful in private business. On the other hand, if one is of the right type, it matters not that one might have turned a marginal seat into a safe one for the opposing parties.

The brutal cull of the candidates list (both for Member of Parliament & Member of the European Parliament) will enrage those who are not centrist. But there is more coming. Cameron has invited the likes of Zack Goldsmith -- the son of the billionaire financier, an arch anti-globalization activist, anti-capitalist and environmental extremist -- to advise on global warming. But Cameron has not stopped there. Sir Bob Geldof is to advise the party on matters of poverty in the developing world. Now Saint Bob is a clever and successful businessman and cause-plugger in extremis (though the jury is still out on whether Live 8 achieved anything), but his ideas on global debt and the solution to poverty in Africa are on the side of trade restrictions and are decidedly market unfriendly. Any sensible observer will realize that his plan to cancel Third World debt will merely help dictators in power and do nothing to help poor people. Similarly, so-called fair trade is not the solution to trade inequality. It is merely a replacing of one set of barriers with another devised by western do-gooders.

Add to this the Shadow Chancellor's comments in favor of redistribution of wealth and there is a lot here to worry the Conservative Party's classical liberals and right wing, as well as the near right and just about anyone interested in the survival of the Tory party.

Of course, there are those who suggest that Cameron is merely attempting to maximize his current coverage and approval from the mainstream press here in the UK. These same also suggest their confidence that Cameron will come to his senses closer to the election and start sounding more sensible on matters of import. There are those who remind critics that these are merely policy suggestions and not officially part of policy as yet.

Are the just "wait & see" types in the right? Is Cameron truly boxing clever? Or he is in fact nostalgic for the consensus politics of Edward Heath's Tories of the 1970s? Will Cameron take the Tories back into power? Will there be a future for the Party? Or will Cameron lead them to their end? Only time will tell.

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