The great Tory unravelling
A mini-musing, the first, for a very long time. But before that an exciting announcement :
It’s a Family Affair
Coming soon -or at least when we can master the technology – a new podcast, ‘the 2 Mardells’ with China Watcher, New Silk Road traveller, enthusiastic investigator of life’s odd angles and not least my son, Jake, @Jacobmardell1 and little ole me. In the pilot we’re talking politics, Parkinsons, & podcasts but we hope to range far, wide and occasionally weird. Here’s a little taste, with the outline of an audio essay from me.
A party undone by ideology and matricidal guilt
TV and radio journalists reporting on the chaotic hand break turns of a once great Party have been falling over themselves this week to gasp ‘wow, gosh and golly - have you ever seen anything like this ? isn't it amazing ? Unprecedented ? Extraordinary ?’ Of course, it's true in well over 30 years of covering British politics I’ve never, never, never, never, seen anything remotely like the last few days and weeks. But it is insufficient, and also I find this stunned gawping more than a wee bit irritating -- like a colonial explorer with outstretched arm pointing, saying ‘incredible - head like a deer - hops like a frog - let’s ≥÷put in a book of wonders’ -rather than telling us some facts about kangaroos.
So let us lift our eyes and ask a simple question. Why ?
We are seeing the unravelling of the conservative party, going at quite a lick at the moment and it feels as if it's only a matter of time before it flies apart entirely. But it has been unspooling for quite a while. For 32 years tensions have been building in a party undermined by ideology and haunted by matricidal guilt. It underscores the fact that Britain's two party system is based on broad coalitions and only really works if its constituent parts are allowed a voice.
It might have happened anyway, but the cocaine drive to destruction was provided by the secret sauce of Brexit. The key is the absence of grown-ups. All governments suffer attrition of experience -ministers retire or are sacked or leave in a huff. That was happening to David Cameron's administration anyway, but when Brexit didn't go the way he wanted and he blew up his Government that removed more of those who been around the block.
May's government reeled impossibly between the implacable, irreconcilable demands of ideologues and pragmatists over the great divide – at each twist moulting ministers like an old dog sheds hairs.
Until she was forced out and enter stage right Boris Johnson, who with great brutality got Brexit done at the price of sacking a huge number of MPs and ministers- tearing an entire wing off his party - in a break with tradition he didn't even give his main rival Jeremy Hunt a cabinet job. The once broad Church of the Tory party could now fit into a single pew of a small evangelical tabernacle, St Boris the Brexiteer, a pure and puerile fan club.
When his shenanigans and lack of care for any rules became too much even for them party members turned to Liz Truss. She learned the exact wrong lessons well and demanded utter loyalty to her retro Thatcher tribute act and wouldn't give a job to a single person who hadn't voted for her. A front bench stripped of dissent where loyalty is prized above competence. And that is how you get to the blindness, the incompetence and the sheer stupidity of this Government.
The unspooling has been sudden but has deeps roots. It began with the defenestration of Margaret Thatcher and her party’s guilt at this matricide. It led to a split in which dispossessed Thatcherites latter-day loyalists gathered around the flag of hostility towards the European Union. Until Thatcher ideology was unfamiliar to pragmatic Tories, and they still haven't got over it its presence. Her current heirs try to replicate her ideology, absent her strategic flexibility and practical intelligence.