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An end to convenient Conservatism

Perspectives Co-Editor Matilda Smith explores the reason for the failures of the Conservative party in the recent general election.

Theresa May in Livestream-Joint-Press-Conference with Donald Trump, image:Karl-Ludwig Poggemann

The night of the 8th July was one of delirious confusion. The winners sat mournfully in defeat while the losers cheered with unchecked satisfaction. The pantomime of the night continued until the exhausted hours of the next morning, with occasional hisses at the UKIP villains, jeers at the Tory fools and applauding of the heroic Corbyn. But through the avalanches of emotion there were moments of pure insecurity and unease. Even now, weeks after the election, this feeling has not gone, if anything it has only deepened. The only definitive and sure mantra that has emerged from across the political spectrum is that May must go. And with her, the shallow, visionless, convenient conservatism that has defined the Tory party of the 21st Century.

In the last three general elections, the Tories have fought on a platform of catchphrases and taglines. ‘Strong and Stable’, coupled with the ever increasingly ironic ‘Coalition of Chaos’, are but the extensions to 2015’s ‘Road to Recovery’ and the slightly less catchy ‘A Britain living within its means’. These slogans are by no means unique to contemporary politics, or to the Conservative party for that matter, however there has never before been such a reliance from the leaders on them. Say what you like about Thatcher (and trust me I usually do) but she was at least capable of holding her own in interviews and when under fire from questions. Compare this to the strange self-interviewing tactics that defined Cameron’s media appearances; as he saw fit to ignore the questions being asked and replace them with his own talking points, and May’s terrified bunny in the headlights expressions, that is when she actually made it to the broadcast; and the meaninglessness of recent conservative politics is stripped bare.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking outside parliament about Bahrain, Image: JMiall

Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand took a different approach. Not every interview went his way of course, I still flinch every time I hear women’s hour being announced on the radio, and he was faced with constant criticisms to his connections to Irish terrorists and the disagreements he had with his party’s line on Trident and nuclear disarmament. But these criticisms came because he had, at some point in his career, spoken up and stood for something. He had been obligated to negotiate and compromise with his party to create a manifesto that everyone could get behind. Now I don’t know exactly what the process was behind the creation of the Conservative manifesto, my contacts don’t quite reach the inner circle of the Tory party, but I do know that the eighty-eight page document has as much integrity as Paul Nuttall’s immigration figures. The contents page, filled with hollow nonsense, that I imagine was an attempt to appeal to everyone, but ends up meaning nothing to anyone. ‘Five giant challenges’, ‘the World’s great meritocracy’, ‘a restored contract between the generations’; on and on it goes; the apotheosis of the political drivel that has been building up across three election campaigns.

This tactic may have worked for Cameron, twice, but after twelve years the public have finally woken up and realised that a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’ doesn’t mean anything. When asked what type of Conservative May is, she replies as her predecessor replied, a ‘One-Nation Tory’. As opposed to all those divided-nation Tories I suppose. The mockery, maiming and meme-ing, that erupted after her ‘fields of wheat’ comment is but one display of the utter bemusement and amusement the public had to the lack of creativity and imagination that May and her Conservatives had. They could do nothing but laugh at the monotone superficiality of the candidate that had been put before them.

People’s Assembly, Image: Peter Damian

I am in no way suggesting that Corbyn’s leadership model is something that should be directly copied and pasted onto another leader. The great celebrations of his ‘victory’ appear to be more of shock at his relative okay-ness in comparison to May, rather than any adoration of his great strengths as a leader and campaigner. The fact that the Labour party were still unable to wrestle power from the hands of the weakest and most incompetent Conservative leader since Major demonstrates that simply standing for something is not enough to win an election. This election has not welcomed the age of policy politics, people are still voting for individuals and characters. But at the very least this election marks the end of the shallow superficiality that has epitomised my generation’s Conservatism.

Quite simply, they have not the vision to inspire, nor the intelligence to cover this. If the party are ever to know majority power again then they must find someone among them with a shred of integrity, with a notion of a vision for the nation, with an ability to connect to the British people, and with some semblance of individuality and creativity. Or they could just make Boris Johnson leader of the party. Oh God, they’re going to make Boris Johnson the leader of the party.

Matilda Smith is co-Editor of the Warwick Globalist’s Perspectives section. She is studying for a BA in History at Warwick

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