Peter Bingle: A Tory tale of missed opportunities and unforced errors

Written by Peter Bingle on 9 May 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

There is no ideology underpinning the government's policy agenda - and no passion either.

One year on from David Cameron's unexpected victory in the general election the timing is right to assess the performance and achievements of the government.

The first comment to make is that a Tory majority government has been less radical and much less competent in its first year than the Tory/Lib Dem coalition at the same stage.

The government has no obvious political narrative, has made far too many unnecessary mistakes and seems to approach major issues such as Port Talbot with a combination of bemusement and incompetence. The reason is clear and damning. There is no ideology underpinning the government's policy agenda. Pragmatism rules ...

The election of Jeremy Corbyn and the comrades as Her Majesty's Official Opposition has enabled the government to get away with a whole series of policy disasters. A half decent Opposition would have the government on the run. Weak Oppositions rarely result in good governance by the majority party.

So other than a lack of ideology or a half-decent set of political beliefs what are the other factors which have caused such a disappointing first twelve months?

The first is the internal divisions within the party. One of the reasons why the PM so liked the coalition was that it neutralised the right wing of his own party. It is now clear that the PM does not like a substantial number of his own MPs. To be fair they don't much like him either! The result is that there are going to be lots of staged rebellions with the aim of undermining the PM's authority.

The second is the political decline of the Chancellor. Despite being the person who did most to win last year's election he has seemed to lose the plot over the last twelve months. For a master strategist he has made too many mistakes and has shown himself to be out of touch with mainstream Tory opinion. From being the PM in waiting he now looks a likely casualty following the Euro Referendum whatever the result.

The third reason is the Euro Referendum which is needlessly tearing apart the party. The PM gave the commitment to hold one believing that as he wasn't going to win a majority it would never happen. His aggressive tone during the campaign makes his early departure whatever the outcome almost inevitable. He made what could have been little scratches into Klingsor like wounds. A serious mistake.

The fourth reason is the PM's ministerial team which with a few notable exceptions has not impressions. Michael Fallon, Theresa May, Michael Gove and Philip Hammond exude confidence and authority. Other than that the political scorecard is pretty poor. Ministers should not be appointed for any other reason than their ability. The PM also needs to clear out Number 10 and appoint best in class policy and media advisers.

The fifth reason is the government's perverse desire to focus on people who will never vote for them and ignore the people who do but mightn't in future. The middle classes and the aspirant working class do not seem to figure sufficiently in the government's priorities. Jeremy Corbyn would not be so altruistic!

The sixth is the government's failure to address the concerns of London. Boris was a great Mayor but during last year's general election there was no obvious plan to try and hold or win target seats in the Capital. The PM needs to appoint a political heavyweight as Minister for London. London is just as important as the Northern Power House.

The last reason is the government's policy agenda which is for the most part dull and uninspiring. We need to return to the days of Tory radicalism when the enemy was engaged ideologically and on the ground and defeated. Nowadays there is no buzz and no passion. Politics is for the most part dull.

So there we have it. A sad tale of missed opportunities and unforced errors despite having waited since 1992 (!) for the Tories to win a majority. Last week's local elections showed that Corbyn cannot simply be written off as a loser. The Tories need to get their act together and start delivering or the public will turn on them as they did on the hapless John Major government after the 1992 election.

 

Peter Bingle is a senior lobbyist and former Conservative councillor.

 

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