Dead Men Left

Monday, May 09, 2005

"Something quite drastic": liberal Tories quit Shadow Cabinet

Seems my email correspondent was right:

Two of Michael Howard's shadow cabinet resigned today, as speculation mounted about the timing of and frontrunners in the Conservative leadership race.

Tim Yeo, the shadow environment and transport secretary, quit in order to have free rein to debate "non-traditional issues" ahead of the contest, while the shadow defence secretary, Nicholas Soames, retired to the backbenches, saying parliament would be "much more important now"...

Mr Yeo said he was leaving the shadow cabinet because "I no longer feel I can argue the case for extensive change ... while accepting that restraint".

If the Tories have any sense, they'll need to listen to people like Yeo. His analysis of the election results is spot on:

"The truth is we have now gone through two elections when we have stuck on around 32-33%. I think it has been too much focus on issues which are of concern to our traditional supporters.

"I think that had we widened out our message on issues like the environment, we would have made clear to the public that we were not the same party they rejected comprehensively in 1997 and have pretty well rejected in the last two elections as well.

"I really do believe there is a whole huge section of younger voters, of A-B voters, where alarmingly our share of support is going down at each election."

The Tories can never win a general election whilst they are still marked by Thatcher's stain. Anyone from amongst her epigoni in the 1992-1997 Major government will be rejected by the electorate. Fortunately for the rest of us, the Tory membership - alongside their "core vote" - appear not to realise this. There are currently clear opportunities for a socially more liberal Conservative party to work productively with rightward-lurching Liberal Democrats. Kennedy himself would welcome such a move:

Charles Kennedy has ordered a root-and-branch review of Liberal Democrat policy following the election and a separate review of the party's tax plans.

These were seen by some as the party's Achilles heel, limiting its appeal to potential Conservative swing voters. Party strategists are deeply disappointed that the Lib Dems failed to make a serious dent in traditional Tory support during the election. The party lost five seats to the Tories and ousted just one senior shadow frontbencher, education spokesman Tim Collins, despite targeting high-profile Tories in marginal seats - fuelling fears that the party is failing to appeal to middle England.

The inevitable Nick Clegg pops up to demand that the Lib Dems be more than just a "receptacle for disgruntled Labour voters." Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this election for the Left were the thousands upon thousands of anti-war and left-wing Labour supporters forced to vote for a pro-war, right-wing party in the absence of viable alternatives; the contempt with which the Liberal leadership holds such people is becoming obvious.