The Deepest Split in the Tory Party 39

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.

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39 thoughts on “The Deepest Split in the Tory Party

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  • technicolour

    Dear Craig: I find myself repeatedly posting this at the moment. It’s part of an open letter from Lord Onslow to David Cameron, published in the Guardian in 2006. In it he comprehensively demolishes Labour’s human rights/civil liberties record and then says:

    “This list is by no means comprehensive. What surprises, worries and depresses me is the apparent relative quietude on the part of the Conservative party on these issues. I repeat – it did not vote against the Regulatory Reform Bill on second reading. It has not remembered the great Edward Gibbon’s comment on Augustus Caesar’s Rome: ‘The principles of a free constitution are irrecoverably lost when the legislative power is nominated by the executive.’

    It was dozy on the Civil Contingencies Act until the excellent Peta Buscombe in our house took it up; this from the party which, since the restoration of Charles II, has been so jealous of our constitution. Have we a guilty secret? Remember Burke saying: ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.’ Why are we not shouting from the hustings that we will return to the people their ancient liberties?

    Why, Mr Cameron, is the Conservative party passing by on the other side while our old liberties fall among thieves?

    Yours sincerely, Onslow”

    Why, indeed?

    “Have we a guilty secret” is also an interesting question, don’t you think?

    As far as I know, there was no reply.

    The full letter bears reading.


  • frank verismo

    Is anyone here remotely contemplating voting either Tory or Labour?

    I’m expecting the sound of crickets and tumbleweed, but let’s see . . . .

  • ora

    Frank, I really have no idea who to vote for next. I voted for Ken Livingstone in the mayoral only as I really disliked Boris, and disliked the conservatives more for cheapening the election with a buffoon, which i saw as a cynical tactic. That said Livingstone was already a parody of himself.

    I think we need a ‘none of the above’ option and if over 50% of votes are that you have to have another election!

  • frank verismo

    Doubtless, many here will already be familiar with the author of the following. But given the Onslow/Cameron correspondence it certainly bears repeating:

    “The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can throw the rascals out at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. Then it should be possible to replace it, every four years if necessary, by the other party, which will be none of these things but will still pursue, with new vigor, approximately the same basic policies.”

    Given that Prof Carroll Quigley was a genuine insider (official historian for the CFR), cited by Bill Clinton as that president’s “mentor” and also penned a highly revealing tome by the title of ‘the Anglo-American Establishment’, it strikes me that those in our country still capable of critical thought need to give entirely serious thought to the above quote and how it might relate to our own political life.

    Replace ‘American’ in the quote above with ‘British’ – and then mount an argument, if you can, why the quote does not apply perfectly well to us.

  • Strategist

    Good stuff, Frank, and there’s no question that the project is to deny real choice come election time. The method, as in USA, is First Past the Post voting in single member constituencies.

    Under the existing constituency boundaries Labour can assemble a healthy majority with a 35%-32% victory over the Tories, whereas the Tories need something like an 8 point victory over Labour to get a Commons majority. This will change after 2010 when the boundaries are reviewed.

    Therefore up until this crash we had a once in a generation opportunity to get a hung parliament result with the chance of electoral reform to follow. Now, Brown is likely to easily lose by 8 points.

    It is a profoundly depressing thought that there are so many people out there who imagine the best they can do – the best they are allowed – is to replace New Labour with the Cameronistas.

    I cannot begin to express how very bad a Cameron government is going to be, just Blair Mark 2 – so depressingly, so desperately more of the bloody same, but worse.

  • Jon

    That ConservativeHome would post this on their website, despite it being aired on Faux News, is astounding. Is this a case of this website trying to lead the party, rather than to just report what’s happening within it?

    I suspect so. Elsewhere on the site there is a manifesto of ConservativeHome, presumably by which they intend to shape the party. And disappointingly they cite Islamic extremism as “the most serious challenge of our time” … to these nitwits, clearly less critical than climate change. By what process is it that people get this blinkered?

  • MJ

    “…they cite Islamic extremism as “the most serious challenge of our time””

    A widely held view and one we are obviously ecouraged to hold. In fact, if Islamic extremism is the “most serious challenge” then we can all relax. We only need to do two things that we know we ought to do anyway, without any prompting from others: firstly, sort out the Israel/Palestine situation by enforcing International Law and the requirements of UN Resolutions 242 and 476; secondly withdraw the Western military presence from Arab countries and start to treat them with the respect appropriate to suppliers of much-coveted natural resource.

    Simple really. Islamic extremism would wither away overnight. In fact the gratitude would be so gushing as to be embarrassing.

  • Jaded

    ‘Lib Dems all the way for me but then again, I live in a Tory ward.’

    As an alternative to the other two, that actually stands a slim chance of getting in power, I would vote lib dem too. We could probably push them hard for some real change if they got in. A ‘small step’ in the right direction at least.

  • amk

    “I think we need a ‘none of the above’ option and if over 50% of votes are that you have to have another election!”

    No, we need a preferential electoral system. London had a limited one with a first and a second choice, so as long as one of your two choices was one of the two main parties would would not “waste” your vote by having a minor party as a first choice. With not many first choices going to minor parties though (or even Lib Dem) it seems most Londoners didn’t appreciate the change.

    I could bore for England on electoral systems, by the way. Wikipedia is a good starting point.

  • amk

    “Is anyone here remotely contemplating voting either Tory or Labour?”

    I don’t know where I’ll be next election. If I’m in a constituency where only a Tory or Labour candidate could realistically win, and one of them was a decent candidate (i.e. a civil libertarian, not xenophobic) than I would consider voting for them. Otherwise, I’d vote Lib Dem (or SNP or PC or SDLP as appropriate).

  • Ian Parker-Joseph

    What many know, but will never say is that whilst Cameron and the Tories give lip service to civil liberties, those liberties are being stripped away by EU diktat, which a Tory government will be obliged to rubber stamp in Westminster.

    Until the Conservatives openly speak about the EU and its role in Westminster there is only 1 home for Libertarian thought which is dismissed in the mainstream parties.

    LPUK is now ready to stand up and fight, now ready for the ballot box and have been quietly growing whilst others either ignore or dismiss them.

    A shock is coming, and the voters don’t believe in the Lab/Con/LibDem coalition any longer.

  • Strategist

    With apologies for descending into electioneering, don’t forget that the still-awful-but-better-than-FPTP system for the Euro elections on 4 June gives the altogether more inspiring Greens a fighting chance…

    If you live in London or South East England you already have an effective & hardworking Green MEP; if you live in North West England you have a good chance of electing one for the first time and squeezing out the BNP in the process.

  • Jon

    @Ian – your party stands for, as far as I can tell:

    * an abandonment of the principle of criminal rehabilitation

    * the abolition of the statutory minimum wage

    * the ending of public services brought about by:

    * the abolition of income tax

    * an abandonment of NHS principles, despite the US model being such an expensive disaster

    * espousing concern for the “hardest hit – the poor”, which I am not sure I find convincing because you believe in:

    * the free-market principles of Milton Friedman.

    Erm… are you *trying* to do a worse job of reducing inequality and worsening crime than Nu Labour? That would probably take quite some doing, but you may have just the manifesto to give it a serious try!

  • Ian Parker-Joseph

    Jon, nice bit of spin, but unfortunately spinning the wrong way.

    Criminal Justice – Life means life, 5 years means 5 years. We do say NO to special deals, time off for behaviour and weekend socials.

    Minimum Wage – The biggest inhibitor to job creation ever invented. Most small business could afford to pay much more if the overhead and regulation at the lowest levels were removed.

    The ending of public services brought about by ending income tax. Afraid you have this completely backwards.

    We will be able to make initial tax reductions and then remove income tax completely by removing wasteful public ‘services’. Spending cuts come before tax cuts. In some cases entire central government departments would disappear. BERR being one, where environmental decisions are best dealt with at the local level, not the national. A small MAFF type ministry would replace for national incidents such as foot & mouth.

    Not the abandonment of NHS principles, but returning to Bevan’s original principle, an insurance scheme for all. Unfortunately over the years this has been hijacked into a nationalised behemoth which fails at all levels. The NHS now supports over 1000 quangos and fake charities, removing a good number of those will massively reduce the spending without touching the front line services.

    Are BUPA hospitals more efficient than NHS ones? Why is that? The other thing here of course is that the US model of health care is also a failure, being controlled by government. There are so many much better examples available such as the Cypriot model.

    As for your last point think about why the poor are the hardest hit. Capitalism has not failed, Creditism has. Where economies are based on credit/debt, where spending more, creating more debt is seen as the way forward the poor will always be the major looser.

    Capitalism was designed to run on Capital, not credit, and that has been the primary reason for major bank failures and bankruptcies.

    Our policies are designed in such a way that those working and earning get to keep their earnings, especially the poorest in the UK, and it is they who get to decide where and how to spend it, as opposed to the current position where Mr Average works for half pay, the government taking the other half.

    People should read our manifesto and then ask LPUK the questions rather than listening to spin and gossip, they may be very surprised by the answers.

  • technicolour

    Unfortunately, many people seem trapped by the antiquated notion that today’s parties will actually fulfil their manifesto promises, and that a series of decent promises promises a series of decent MP’s.

    I’m with the person who votes for the most decent *person* they can vote for, irrespective of party colours. I still can’t see what’s wrong with this perfectly simple method of chosing your local representative, unless it’s too simple; perhaps others could tell me?

  • McDuff

    “Minimum Wage -The biggest inhibitor to job creation ever invented. ”

    With all due respect, Mr Parker-Joseph, this is at best an unverified matter of faith, at worst the opposite of the truth.

    This Bloomberg article provides a decent summary of the evidence.

    Regardless, the possession of a job is not a guarantor of adequate welfare, as our experiences throughout the history of capitalism have shown us. Jobs that do not provide a living wage are a social cost just as much as lost jobs are. This is something that libertarian muffins with double-barrelled names and no life experience never seem to grasp.

    “Are BUPA hospitals more efficient than NHS ones? Why is that? ”

    Massive indirect subsidies from the NHS system, perhaps? Just a guess. That’s generally why private healthcare in the UK is so cheap compared to other countries.

    Further, are you aware of just how little we spend on the NHS, Mr Parker-Joseph? Less than any other Western European nation by quite some measure, and 60% less than the USA. We could experiment with the Cypriot system but, honestly, we get generally better healthcare results across the board (the usual standard indicators are below us by a statistically significant percentage) and I’d be surprised if we could transport all the savings that a Mediterranean island with a population smaller than that of, say, Greater Manchester to our shores. I imagine there would be some significant differences between providing healthcare to 800,000 people and 60,000,000.

    For the small amount we put into it, the NHS is actually a pretty reliable provider of essential healthcare services. I’m sure that there are ways it could be improved, but there’s no evidence to pronounce it a “failure”. Daily Mail headlines and uppity Tory MEPs aside, of course.

  • magister ludi

    I took AMKs comment about voting for the “decent candidate” as nothing more than a throw away remark by a romantic, but now read that Technicolour endorses this.

    These ramblings cannot go unchallenged. A knowing smile and a nod of the head will not suffice when it looks as though this notion has growing support.

    Voting for the decent candidate is not and never has been the way that things are done.

    We don’t have our precious freedoms, our vibrant economy, our status in the eyes of those with whom we share the planet, our empire for heavens sake, none of this did we get by voting for the decent chap.

    It may seem harmless enough in itself, but mark my words, it’s the thin edge of a slippery slope and before long free thinkers will have infiltrated our system of government.

  • technicolour

    Thanks magister!

    On the other hand, I am not unanimous in this (pace an old English sitcom) Boris “I support the policing of the G20” Johnson seemed like a “decent” person to many people too.

    I love it when I disagree with myself.

  • Ian Parker-Joseph

    “This is something that libertarian muffins with double-barrelled names and no life experience never seem to grasp”.

    Wondered who would be the first to get personal. A classic rebut instead of a viable argument.

    More than average life experience thank you, as you can see from my Bio.

    As for the NHS, you answered the question for me. If a small subsidy can make Private Health care so efficient and cost effective, then the NHS should be able to do it with NHS health care.

    However, it fails miserably, kills 40,000 patients a year, is riddled with c-dif and MSRA (unlike its European counterparts), has more managers than doctors, 3 administrators for every bed, and is unable to balance its books.

    No, It is long overdue a radical reform rather than just throwing more money at it.

  • George Dutton

    NHS is being sabotaged by politicians who are being paid (very thick brown paper envelopes) by the insurance industry to privatise it.There is a LOT of money to be made from all those extortionate insurance premiums we will all have to pay.

  • Ian Parker-Joseph


    I very much doubt that there is any substance your allegation. Health Insurance premiums are on average much less than people pay in NI taken from their wage packets each week.

    It is true that Insurance companies would see an increase in the quantity of business, but a poor reason to oppose a bigger private take up of health care.

    However, I would happily file a complaint with the Police authorities on your behalf if you have proof of such a serious allegation.

  • George Dutton

    “However, I would happily file a complaint with the Police authorities on your behalf if you have proof of such a serious allegation.”

    Ian Parker-Joseph

    Why?.It’s NOT against the law if it’s done in a roundabout way.

    Anyway to get onto an entirely and completely different matter that I stress has got NOTHING to do with bribery and corruption of government NOTHING I would like your views on the nuclear industry and how government works Ian….

    Just copy and paste links into address bar…

    “10th November 2007”

    “Cash-for-access row as former Labour minister Ian McCartney entertains nuclear boss in Commons”…

    “15 November 2007”

    “Two former Labour ministers are under fire over their links with the nuclear industry”

    “Former trade minister Ian McCartney has been appointed as an £115,000 a year adviser to US engineering giant Fluor”….

    “23 May 2007”

    “Labour and the nuclear lobby”…

    “26 November, 2002”

    “Ian McCartney: Blair’s backstage fixer”…

    “The McRae Mystery”…

  • MJ

    It’s a shame that both the LPUK and UKIP, both of which have the sensible policy of withdrawal from the EU, otherwise saddle themselves with rather reactionary and regressive social and economic policies.

    Anyone know of a more enlightened anti-EU party?

  • Vronsky

    Here is a link to a review (slightly out of date) of websites offering strategies for tactical voting. At least one of them sets itself the target of producing a hung parliament, the thinking being that the Lib Dems would be in a position – and under pressure – to deliver proportional voting, the first step towards getting out of our present mess.

    Several offer vote-swapping strategies – this means that if defeating Labour (or Tory) means your voting Tory (or Labour) and you’d rather stick your face in a bowl of boiling fat – then you can arrange to vote swap with someone who lives in a constituency where your preferred party has a chance of success, and their preferred party has a chance in your constituency. It’s rather like mailing your vote to a constituency where it might be effective, but in return you have to use one mailed to you.

    I’m not sure how effective it can be, given that there are different sites with similar strategies but different aims. The arguments really apply only to England as Scotland and Wales have SNP and Plaid as sensible places to go with your vote. Haven’t a clue about NI – maybe somebody has a suggestion?

  • paul

    Minimum Wage -The biggest inhibitor to job creation ever invented.

    Funny, theres me thinking its CEOs paying themself 6+ digit salaries to do SFA and play golf so theres not enough money left to pay people who do useful work.

    If you start a company and you cant “afford” to pay people what is still a pittance you need to stop being a greedy fuck and do the work yourself, or get a job (for < minumum wage) because it wasnt a viable business to start with.

  • paul

    Ill vote when someone worthy of my vote runs, in a fair electoral system where my vote will not be cancelled out by legions of gullible morons (ie. labour/conservative voters), on a day that is conducive to being able to vote (a non work day) . Been waiting 21 years, going to be waiting at least that many more.

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