The Conservative Party is the most successful party in modern human history. It has achieved its goal of attaining and holding power with greater frequency and longer duration than any other. This would include the numerous communist parties. The Conservative Party has done so in the framework of democratic politics. Unlike Lenin or Mao, no Tory has become Prime Minister following a revolution or coup d’etat.
For all its success, the party has split on numerous occasions. It could be argued that it is permanently split, but has a unity in an opposition to socialism that drives its success.
Splits in the party have been for numerous reasons down the years. The usual reason has been the schism between small ‘c’ conservatism and one ‘progressive’ force or another. The battlefield is usually economic. Should there be free trade or protection? Repeal or retention of the Corn Laws? Appeasement or rearmament? Statist corporatism or free markets? The party splits usually echo the national debate over the issue. The latest has been dogging the Conservatives for three decades – in or out of Europe?
Labour has had its splits as well. But these are not usually over policy and are purely ideological, focusing on whether the party is ‘Democratic Socialist’, or ‘Social Democratic’. After New Labour scrapped Clause IV, the answer was the latter during the Blair years. It is now the former. The word ‘democratic’ does have a different meaning among the comrades, as anyone who lived in the former East Germany will know.
Labour is currently split over Brexit. But for some reason this split is nowhere near as newsworthy as that same split in the Conservative Party, despite front- and back-bench Labour MPs breaching three-line whips. This is probably because the Conservatives are the governing party and that Corbyn’s leadership has been causing party splits from day one.
It is possible that this split in her party was the last straw to make Mrs May call the election. We do not know in detail what went on behind the door at No 10. Anthony Seldon has yet to write the latest in his definitive works. But strong and stable government it was not. There were numerous crises, like a rebellious Chancellor, a duff Budget, sniping by eurocrats, MPs facing prosecution, a fractious Cabinet missing Mr Cameron’s chillaxing style. The Prime Minister needed to stamp her authority by winning a general election in her own name instead of depending on the fruits of Mr Cameron’s victory. A sky-high poll rating was another incentive.
However, it has all gone horribly wrong. While not losing to Jeremy Corbyn, the Conservatives did not win either. For some reason the general election of 2017 is regarded as a Labour victory. Some victory.
Instead of putting Labour in its place and presenting a united front against Corbyn’s neo-communism, the big beasts of the Conservative Party are fighting around the waterhole for a better position. There are leaks of unguarded remarks at Cabinet and playground-style sniping at the Spectator‘s garden party. There is speculation over when Mrs May will go, before or after the party conference, and there is jockeying taking place.
It is naïve to believe that politicians seek office and power just to serve the public. Personal ambition is an important part of a Conservative politician’s psyche. It may be also equally naïve to make a call for these big beasts to settle their differences and get down to the the job of sound governance. One of their number is wounded and they smell blood.
Politicians are well aware that the public will not vote in sufficient numbers for a party that is openly split. While a Labour victory may suit the ambitions of some Conservatives, by allowing the British public to get Corbynism out of their system, Corbyn’s brand of revolutionary socialism means that once in power, it may never go away.
History proves that communism is a weak political force that is almost impossible to remove once shattered institutions, like a weakened Conservative Party, let it into office. Individual Conservatives may prosper in a possible post-Corbyn Britain, but the British people collectively will have suffered for their folly in letting Corbyn into power for want of a better alternative.
The summer recess approaches. Thoughts are of vacations, sunnier climes. After this comes the conference season, where there will be more plotting and scheming. It may be a good idea for the big beasts to send some of their minions on holiday to Venezuela and report back on what they find before the grand muster.
This might just concentrate some minds in the Conservative Party.