For those American conservatives who have wrongly grown excited about Britain’s new Conservative-led coalition (which many are already calling the “ConDems”), there is a welcome dose of reality by leading British commentator Douglas Murray in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe.
In the speech that secured his Tory leadership in 2005, David Cameron told the party faithful that they must “change to win.” For five years, amid considerable lip-biting, a degree of hand-gnawing and no small amount of toe-curling, the party went through this “change” process. It was a self-imposed regime of “detoxification.” Other conservatives, including Republicans in the U.S., were advised to learn from this experiment. So the politics of “aroma” began.
Out went the scent of tweed and pin-stripes, one-nation Toryism and small-state solutions. In came the waft of “New Labour lite.” Mr. Cameron’s first act as party leader was to go to a glacier in Norway, meet huskies and learn about global warming. It was meant to show that the Tories were down with the whole environment business. The party’s logo changed from a torch to a tree. And it was downhill from there.
When the election came along, the party that had chosen to hide its principles found that when it needed them, it was hard to remember where they had placed them. Or what they looked like. . . .
So despite facing a Labour Party that had been in power for 13 years and taken the country into economic terrain nearest to Greece, the Tories only narrowly increased their share of the vote, failed to secure enough seats to gain a majority and now sit in humiliating coalition with the third-party Liberal Democrats. The Tory party changed, but it did not win.
This lesson should be considered very carefully by those conservatives in the U.S and elsewhere who have looked to Mr. Cameron as a model to follow. . . .
It is hard to find a U.S. comparison with the ignominious failure of the Cameron project to win a clear majority while opposing a Labour government that was bankrupted in every imaginable way. But the closest analogy would be if the Republican Party had been forced to form a coalition with Ralph Nader for George W. Bush to become president in 2001 . . .
Senior Lib Dem Lord Greaves, who was present when Mr Alexander reported back to MPs, said: ‘We were negotiating against people like George Osborne and Oliver Letwin who have never had to negotiate a thing in their lives.
‘They are privileged little rich boys. The most difficult negotiation they had was when they proposed to their wives.
‘Our negotiating team said the Conservatives told them, “There is something in your manifesto we would like to concede, can you add it to your list?” and “There are some things in our manifesto that are daft which we would be delighted if you would veto”.
‘It was men against boys. They were totally out of their depth. Our people were hard-nosed negotiators.’