Peter Robinson called into the Tory Conference last night to deliver a progress report. But Conservatives have their own problems arguably of much higher proportions than our own. David Curry, MP for Skipton and Ripon, set the cat amongst the pigeons with an unusually credible analysis of the party’s problems in the FT yesterday:He gets to the crux:
“Surveys suggest the public no longer fears a Conservative government would lay waste to public services. If the “tax bombshell” has lost its blast so has the credibility of Labour’s 1997 election slogan “three days to save the NHS”. The Tory problem is that they have given the impression that the object of the policy is choice in its own right rather than a means to secure the first-rate hospital and the high quality school the public wants. The lack of an over-arching political framework has inhibited the clear, simple explanation of policy in terms of objective.
“But behind narrative lies identity. The Conservatives left office in 1997 having lost their reputation for economic competence and labelled as divided, sleazy and uncaring. Nothing could be more fatal to their recovery than their dismissal as “the same old bloody Tories.
“The party has struggled to change both in terms of embracing the new policy agendas broadly grouped as lifestyle issues (ranging from childcare to matters of gender and sexual preference). It is still not quite sure whether it wants to embrace contemporary society or to confront it”.
In this latter case, Tory Central Office should perhaps seek the out the experience of the man who spoke at Bournemouth last night. Although in the short term his party has been vulnerable to accusations of playing the optics (subs needed), Peter Robinson’s party has embraced the use of a coherent narrative to turn away from confrontation towards an embrace of contemporary Northern Ireland.
Of course, that’s just the story. The party’s long term crediblity as a party of leadership hinges on whether it follows through, or not.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty