For the majority of its existence, the Conservative and Unionist Party has functioned as a broad church, bringing together people from across the entire spectrum of right-wing politics, whether in government or in opposition. In this manner, it is the exact opposite of the Labour and Co-operative Party, which draws their members from across the left wing. Even today, the Conservatives boast a membership that ranges from small business owners and the former aristocracy, to the aspiring middle-class and even working-class voters from traditionally left-wing bastions.
Yet, never has Britain’s oldest political party seemed so divided. If the polls are to be believed, the division within the Party is tipped to contribute to a catastrophic electoral defeat at the next general election. Some pundits go so far as to say, “We are finished!”. Although, as a former Young Conservative Campaign Manager, I would caution against excessive reliance on polls, and rather have faith in our dedicated membership, now is perhaps the right time to reflect on our policies and the state of our Party.
In a parliamentary debate on the so-called “Small Boats Bill”, it often seemed as though the most effective scrutiny of the government's bill was coming from its own backbenches! The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, summed up the criticism most eloquently in the chamber stating that the bill’s impact “tears up modern slavery protections.” However, some members of the Party have claimed that this bill is a form of Trumpian, national-conservative twaddle which has no place in a modern democratic Britain – whilst I am not enamoured by the bill, I think it unhelpful to reduce it to mere pandering to the right-wing of the Party. In fact, I think this kind of disparaging comment primarily demonstrates the tribalism that is seemingly rampant in modern politics. To quote the late Baron Geoffrey Howe, “It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease, only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.” Though in-reverse. When the team captain comes to announce their plan they find the team unwilling to play ball.
Is the structure of the Conservative Party irreparably broken, doomed and shattered? I certainly do not think so, even though I can scarcely name a time when it was so publicly split by factionalism. Our broad church has decided to air its mass (policy) outside the safety of its walls and steeple, which has been seized upon by journalists as “dissent in the ranks”.
We have always had disagreements, but never once have we failed to unite to deliver our common message. Perhaps we should initiate internal debates on our policy, and discussions on our philosophy, so that we may rediscover what it is that makes each and all of us conservative. Only then will we be able to once again proudly announce: we are not broken, we are renewing and like a phoenix arising from the ashes, united again we shall be!