Dead Men Left

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

White lines

I know I shouldn't, I know it's bad for me in several different ways, but... this Tory leadership contest. Aside from now bitterly regretting not having a punt on David Cameron, back in the day (if he wins, I get the payout in compensation; if he loses, I don't mind paying £20 for the privilege), the disparity between the man's stated positions and the fervour with which the press has greeted him - and the cocaine non-story is very much included here - has a familiar whiff to it.

UKIP, circa summer 2004. Big meeja hoo-ha, somewhat more competently administered than you might expect by UKIP themselves. Kilroy-Silk becoming an MEP, Joan Collins, all that business. A brief flash in the pan that disappeared entirely at the next general election: Kilroy-Silk to oblivion via his own backside, UKIP too busy pissing Brussels expenses claims up the wall to build anything. Minus the media glare, and without the fertile soil of proportional representation, their support withered on the vine. There was no substance to it; no organisation on the ground to prop it up, and no significant identification with the party beyond a vague ill-tempered protest.

The sudden (apparent) reflation of the Tories' prospects, centred on the balloon-like features of Cameron, has something about this. I don't see any significant shifts their opinion poll support; I don't see any revival of membership.

It's early days, and who knows what glories await the Conservative Party under a new generation of toffs, squits and bullies, but all this looks a little ephemeral. The Tory Party, in 2005, faces far greater structural problems than Labour did in, say, 1994: years of internal wrangling and expulsions had cleared the way for New Labour, whilst the most obvious barrier to Labour's success - the SDP - had flolloped back into the Liberals. An anti-Tory coalition of the left was there for the taking. No such anti-Labour coalition now exists to the right, whilst the "modernising" elements of the Tory leadership, desperate to appeal to an assumed "centre", have failed to impose themselves effectively on the party.