A Progressive Parliament
A fascinating article in today’s Guardian demonstrates just how pervasive progressive ideals have become amongst Conservative Parliamentarians. According to a recent poll of sitting Tory MPs, a full 50% would describe themselves as subscribing to either a Cameroon (12%) or One Nation (38%) conservative tradition. The news was even more encouraging amongst PPCs in the Tory targets where 65% described themselves as devotees of Cameron or Disraeli.
This just goes to show how far the Conservative Party has truly come. Not long ago the traditions of Tories such as Disraeli, Churchill or Macmillan could be safely ignored in favour of the neoliberalism of Thatcher. It was probably fair to say, during the last three Parliaments, that the Conservatives were still firmly rooted in the Iron Lady’s vision of politics. No longer; the same poll showed that a measly 19% (less than a fifth) of likely Tory MPs consider themselves to be Thatcherites.
Of course, this shouldn’t mean that the progressive wing of the Conservative Party can pack up its campaign tool-kits and retire knowing that their work is done. The real tests begin not in opposition but in power; Cameron and his candidates are running as progressive conservatives and it is as progressive conservatives that they must govern. I’ve pointed before to the policy agenda that Cameron could pursue in order to demonstrate a real commitment, personal and political, to progressive ideals. He must also be alive to the prospect of mischief from the rogue fifth of his party who are still infected with Thatcherite zeal; if he is forced into rejecting the progressive values on which he was elected then he can be expected, in turn, to be rejected by a disgruntled electorate.
But, all of those concerns aside, this news is an early Christmas present to progressive conservatives. If the Conservative party win the next election a real majority of their MPs will be products of the political traditions that we hold dear. What is more, over the festive season we will at last have an answer to those naysayers who decry our vision as smart marketing; as this poll shows the substance, and leaders, of the centre right are changing for the better.