Being in opposition disguises the fact that the Conservatives are still a deeply split party. The huge divide on Europe actually has a close relationship to their still deeper split over the most important fault line in British politics – that authoritarian/libertarian divide.
New Labour, of course, have pinned their colours unreservedly to the authoritarian mast. We have seen the greatest erosion of civil liberties and parliamentary government since Britain became a democracy. There remain some Tories who are instinctively libertarian, like Rifkind, Clarke and Davis. But as examplified by Chris Grayling’s dreadful parliamentary performance against Jacqui Smith yesterday, many have an atavistic urge to be even more authoritarian than New Labour.
Right at the top of the Conservative Home website today is a video from Fox News supporting torture – arguing in effect that torture works.
The Tory party in the country, and even more so in parliament, would be deeply split by those who are horrified at this trampling on ancient liberties, and those who have bought in to the neo-con agenda.
You can hide that kind of fundamental divide in opposition. You can’t in Government.