The Guardian view on Tory splits: doctrinal differences7 October 2017 | 08:01 | The Guardian
This at a time when Britain’s productive forces are stagnating and the biggest foreign policy issue of our times – leaving the European Union – is met with the political posturing of a clown wearing the mask of a roaring lion. The Conservative party was once steeped in pragmatism, dominated by the wish to win elections and to be in power. There always were differences of opinion. These differences in dispositions have now curdled into doctrinal differences.
The Brexit vote has helped widen gulfs in the party, intensifying the cultural nationalism on the right of the party. This group, who since the days of John Major have put forward anti-EU arguments with a burning passion, repelled the electorate to such an extent that the Tories could not win a majority for more than two decades. The bad news for Mrs May is that they are back. The result is that the Tories lost their parliamentary advantage this year. Yet those who profess this anti-European nationalist creed are feted in the current Tory party. It was their speakers who drew the crowds and cheers at conference, not the cabinet’s. That Mrs May relies on the votes of the anti-gay, anti-abortion climate-change deniers of the evangelical Democratic Unionist party to carry her through will mean MPs on the cultural nationalist right will be emboldened.
It speaks volumes about the mess the party is in that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the MP for the last century, who is against gay marriage and anti-abortion on the grounds of his faith, is such a star. Young people, having grown up in a culturally permissive era, are not aroused by the holy anger of the right. They are moved by issues such as climate change and education, where an egalitarian view of humankind prevails. Conservatives have in the past been able to accept social change and adapt to it. They have anticipated society’s needs and changed their policies to meet them. Now the party’s anti-Europeanism means they risk losing a section of voters for ever.
The Conservatives have also long been deaf to issues affecting the under-40s. Not only are these voters seeing their wages squeezed, they are unable to save for homes and pensions while the prices race away. Mrs May will find it difficult to sell capitalism to those with no capital. The last election threw into sharp relief the cracks in the Tory party’s support. Its voters are dying off faster than it can win over new ones. That is why Mrs May has accepted that there is a cost-of-living crisis and lifted policies from Ed Miliband, a man once derided as Marxist. The Tory leadership seems to think it does not require new ideas. It is content to make do with old ones. Mrs May needed to bring her party’s thinking in line with an environment it does not like. Replacing the leader will only work if the party understands that it needs to change too.
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