Monday, November 07, 2011

Tory Troubles may undermine conventional wisdom

Although the opinion polls say different, there is an emerging consensus among the chattering class that the Conservatives are likely to achieve an outright majority at the 2015 election. Yet, our old friend "events" could well conspire to frustrate this, and after my recent visit to Westminster, I am beginning to wonder if the old Greek adage, "whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad" might not apply to the Tories.

The obsessive hostility to the EU which comes not simply from the old guard of Euro-sceptics, but also from many of the new intake elected in 2010 comes badly. The fact is that despite the serious crisis at the heart of the Euro-zone, British withdrawal from the European Union is an extremely radical and uncertain step. The British Conservative Party does not advocate withdrawal - that policy is supported only by UKIP- yet many of the new MPs particularly are loud in their determination that Britain should indeed leave. For them, it is self evident that the both the Euro and the EU has failed.

The fact is that despite the Euro crisis, the single currency has actually appreciated against most of its peers- including the US Dollar and indeed Sterling. Furthermore, although the spread of interest rates between Germany and the PIIGS states has been rising, the rates are still dramatically lower than those countries would have to pay, were they outside the Eurozone. The crisis is real, but it is not a currency crisis. The issue is the overall level of debt- and there the UK faces a crisis no less severe than any of the countries inside the Euro bloc. 

The fact is that the inchoate rage of the Conservatives can not address the crisis- it only serves to remind the voters that the Tories are horribly divided on the entire issue of Europe. A huge amount of heat and light is being put into an issue which - for the time being at least- the antis can not make much progress with, unless they go to the maximalist position of complete withdrawal- and that is unlikely to be supported at a referendum, given the considerable economic uncertainty and potential dislocation that leaving the EU would most likely cause.

Meanwhile, north of the border, the Scottish Tories have chosen a 32 year old, deeply inexperienced leader, who has at best luke-warm support among her own MSPs. Any recovery in Scotland now seems very unlikely.

So the conventional wisdom of a Tory victory in 2015 may yet end up being upset. The conventional wisdom has been that the Liberal Democrats are human shields for the Tories, but as the debate among Tories grows more rancorous, many Tories are noting the quietly professional way that Lib Dem ministers are getting on with their briefs. Indeed, despite several setbacks: in constitutional reform and in the killer of tuition fees, it is fair to say that the coalition has enacted a substantial body of Lib Dem policy. It is also interesting to note that, as so often in the past, the support for the Lib Dems has dipped mid term- perhaps it may yet recover before the next election.

So, the conventional wisdom could be wrong on both fronts: the Tories may be the party that pays the price for the coalition, while the Lib Dems may recover to get back in contention. After all, even in Scotland, where the outlook has been extremely bleak for the Scottish Lib Dems, the party has been able to return to winning ways- taking a seat in Inverness from Labour, in the face of very determined SNP competition.

With three and a half years left of the coalition, the conventional wisdom may be increasingly challenged- there is nothing yet settled and many "events" still to come.

1 comment:

Newmania said...

The conventional wisdom will not be upset by the determination of Liberals and Labour to abolish the country.News flash..its not popular ,why do you think we are denied a referendum?
The strength of the Euro is the problem not the apology, and the debts acquired within its borders are caused by it.People,and I have no doubt that includes you, who told us it was our destiny ought to feel a little less self confident.

Neither is a dislike of being ruled by unelected foreign bureaucrats "inchoate",it has been ruthlessly argued in the teeth of the same playground name calling that was employed at the time we were supposed to give up the pound.
Recovery in Scotland was always impossible and the case for continued Scottish over-representation at Westminster is now super model thin.
I don`t disagree that the Lib Dems elite have done a good job and I very much regret that David Laws cannot play a fuller part, on the other hand reform of the NHS, Education and deficit control has all been hampered by the 'gravity' of their lefty support.
I think there is little,point in crystal ball gazing right now but to me Ed Milliband has performed very poorly and positioned his Party far from where it must be to challenge.As it stands its more a question of the Liberals and Labour Party losing than Conservatives winning.