Considering Cameron’s current conundrums, it occurred to me, perhaps wishfully, that Cameron may be to the Tory Party what Gorbachev was to the Soviet Union, not a herald of renewal but a curator of its collapse.
When Gorby took over in the Kremlin, the communist state was in the last stages of terminal decline, although this was not necessarily clear at the time. With ‘Perestroika’ and ‘Glasnost’ he attempted to clean the rust and dirt from the machine, but unfortunately for him, it was only the rust and dirt which held it together. His plans provoked a backlash from the old-school elements of his party which toppled him, but the game was up, and the regime fell apart.
Now, how does this relate to David Cameron? Firstly, I would say the Tory Party is in a similar state to the Soviet Union – still surrounded with vestigial power, but heading for extinction nonetheless. It hasn’t won a general election since 1992, and looks like a permanently busted flush – hence the need to borrow a card from the Lib Dems. As the recent passing of Thatcher brought back into view, the Tories are hated across vast swathes of the country, and there’s no reason to expect this to change. Consider that in the 1955 general election the Tories took over 50% of the vote in Scotland, and 35 out of 71 seats. In 2010 they took just one seat with 16.7%. They will not regain this lost ground.
Cameron figured that he could renew the party and preserve it as a political super-power, by pushing through a “modernising” agenda, discounting the effect this would have on the existing bulk of the party, who would have to shut up and like it, and meanwhile the modern, “non-toxic” Tories would gain a lot of extra support. However, it seems the tribal loyalty of the older party may finally be wearing out, especially over his cavalier treatment of that most vital matter of EU membership. Meanwhile the new support ain’t arriving.
It may indeed be the case that the Eurosceptic wing will smash the party if they don’t stay loyal, but that won’t necessarily stop them, although we may have to wait for defeat in 2015 for the final dénouement.