Daily Archives: 18 March 2006

Comfortable Mythology

So farewell then, Michael Howard. Credit where its due, Howard did prevent the Conservative Party from entirely self destructing. Under Iain Duncan Smith, the story beginning to emerge really was that the party was on its last legs. That is no longer the case.

But let’s not get carried away here. The Tory strategy in 2005 was simple: consolidation. If a strong leader had been in place since 2001, they would have been in with a shot. Howard’s brief was to embrace his core support with open arms and hope that Labour were so unpopular that a few moderates would be prepared to come back under the fold despite the most right wing manifesto in the party’s history. It was a shrewd and calculated move, it even worked better than I suspect they had initially though, but it wasn’t an election-winning strategy and Howard knew it.

I have to laugh when I read comments like this:

That is a shame, hopefully the man England elected to be Prime Minister at the last General Election will reconsider and stick around for another term next time round.

This is balls on so many levels I don’t know where to begin.

Firstly, it is another example of how “Conservative and Unionist Party” is becoming an increasingly inaccurate description of the party: the Tories are the least unionist of the main parties these days. The second the Welsh and the Scots were given a bit of autonomy, they dropped hundreds of years of support for the UK like a stone and are slowly reinventing themselves as an English Nationalist party.

Secondly, Howard may have one a plurality in terms of popular vote in England, but that is irrelevant because of the electoral system that the Tories support. You can’t whinge about being robbed on the one hand, and then support the very thing that screwed you over with the next. And no, you can’t simply blame the inbuilt bias on boundaries: simply stated, the Tories have their support spread too thin across the country and nothing will change that.

Thirdly, even if we had used a proportional system AND we had evicted the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish from the Commons, Howard still wouldn’t have been Prime Minister because his manifesto was so toxic. The Lib Dems would have had a moral duty to form a coalition with Labour, not out of any enthusiasm, but because allowing the Conservatives ministerial posts with that dangerous mandate – which was only supported by a third of the electorate – would have been irresponsible.

Michael Howard was the Tories’ fall guy. He had deliberately avoided forming a workable programme for government in favour of enthusing the swivel-eyed loon brigade. He knew it. Don’t kid yourself that he was Prime Ministerial material – instead, celebrate the fact that he bought you a second chance.