Can anyone be a Conservative?

In a different time it’s not hard to imagine that Charlotte Vere may have ended up as one of ‘Blair’s Babes’, after all, the Tory candidate for Brighton Pavilion seems to be touching on policy issues which reflect more on Blair’s style, rather than that of the traditional Tory. She herself admitted to John Harris earlier in the week: “Anyone can be a Tory.” 

David Cameron is a Blair Mach II, the third in line to Thatcher’s throne, with promises for more market interventions into public services, greater privatisation and the encouragement of a ‘free’ enterprise mentality. It’s not that hard to think, what if this was 1997 and not 2010? Could we expect Charlotte Vere to be wearing the red rosette rather than the blue ribbon? Perhaps, but it’s worth remembering that Vere is one of Cameron’s candidates through and through, eager to ‘stay on message’, except for the diversion on fox hunting, Ms. Vere has signed up to ‘Vote Cruelty Free’ along with the other Pavilion candidates.

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, noted this in this week’s New Statesman:

“What the language of compassionate conservatism does is reintroduce the notion of fraternity for the right…By talking about fraternity you discover a language which is kinder, gentler and more emotionally robust compared to the shrill, empty words of the focus group…Cameron speaks this kind of language. It enables him to come across as a more rounded, open, plural figure. Blair was that type of figure, once, before 2001. But now, literally, Labour has lost it’s language.”

For Cruddas, Cameron is a man to be admired. A winning man. After all, isn’t that what any comparison with Blair is really saying? If you’re Blair, you’re a winner. It’s not hard to believe that the new breed of Tories could have followed Blair, after all, he’s the reason why Cameron is looking more likely to take the keys to Number 10 after the General Election, regardless of ‘narrowing polls’ and the spin coming from Labour HQ. There is little doubt in the public’s mind that Brown will be going, one way or another.

I don’t wish to label Ms. Vere a careerist, far from it, she was one of Cameron’s new candidates who answered the call to step forward in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal. But one can’t help but feel the ‘answering of the call’ would not have happened if the wind was blowing a different way. Ms. Vere admitted that she had only been a member of the Conservative Party for two years, hardly an indication of her commitment to the party’s core values, which are quickly evaporating, much in the same way as Labour’s core values have disappeared.

Once a party committed to narrowing the wealth gap and state intervention in creating access to new opportunities for society’s least off, Labour now favours Private Finance Initiatives (PFI), a greater role of the market in determining ‘choice’ for individuals in public services and the dismantling of an education system which was once seen as exemplary and admired around the world.

I believe partisan politics are good. I’m not a fan of the centre ground. I believe the move to the centre has led to the dumbing down of our political system. Gone is great oratory, long debate and principled pleas to traditional bases of support. Instead, the change in style has led to lower turnout, unclear choices and a failure to address the needs, wants and aspirations for so many people. I believe in a left and right. I believe in progress and conservatism. I believe difference is healthy.

It’s a shame ideology is lost, it’s even more of a shame that ‘anyone can be a Conservative’, it’s sad, but true, and very disheartening.


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