British Conservatives Face Three Structural Challenges

British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28
British prime minister Theresa May attends an EU summit in Tallinn, Estonia, September 28 (EU2017EE/Annika Haas)

The United Kingdom’s Conservative Party has arguably been one of the most successful political parties in the Western world. It dominated British politics from 1886 to 1906, from 1918 to 1945, from 1951 to 1964 and from 1979 to 1997. It is now in government since 2010.

Yet, as the party assembles in Manchester this week for its annual conference, there is a sense of decline. Conservative membership is down. Brexit has cost them the youth vote. And the political landscape has shifted in Labour’s favor. Read more

Boris Johnson Makes One More Bid for Relevance

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at Chatham House in London, England, December 2, 2016
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson gives a speech at Chatham House in London, England, December 2, 2016 (Chatham House)

When Theresa May named Boris Johnson foreign secretary last year, she wisely took the Brexit and international-trade portfolios away from him. This way, she contained the damage the buffoonish Johnson could do to both British foreign policy and her premiership.

But the former mayor of London’s appetite for higher office and publicity is never satisfied.

This week, he rattled Conservatives with a long opinion piece in The Telegraph (a right-wing newspaper he used to work for) that can only be read as a challenge to May. Read more

Conservatives Need to Make Capitalism Work for Everyone: Davidson

Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson
Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservatives)

It is not inequality that bothers Brits, argues Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative Party leader, in the new online magazine UnHerd. It’s injustice.

People expect that the CEO of a corporation will be the highest paid person on the payroll. What they don’t accept is that FTSE 100 bosses are paid 174 times the average worker’s wage in this decade — compared to 13 to 44 times in 1980.

Especially when many of their companies have received either big fraud-related fines or bailouts from the state.

The distinction matters, because it goes to a broader point. Read more

Once the Party of Stability, Conservatives Now Provoke Unrest

British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27
British prime minister Theresa May and American president Donald Trump speak in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, January 27 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Kate Maltby argues in The Guardian that Britain’s Conservative Party has lost its way.

For centuries, Conservatives warned against the dangers of too much change too quickly, she points out. They argued revolutions leave children starving and adults bleeding. That stability leads to prosperity. That inequality is a price worth paying for economic growth.

Don’t rock the boat, don’t scare the banks and the middle classes get their quiet life.

Remember the “long-term economic plan”? It was only two years ago that David Cameron couldn’t stop talking about.

Then his party brought Brexit on the United Kingdom. Read more

Hammond Urges Brexit Hardliners to Stop Plotting

Philip Hammond, then Britain's foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015
Philip Hammond, then Britain’s foreign secretary, meets with Finnish officials in Helsinki, January 8, 2015 (Finnish Government/Laura Kotila)

Philip Hammond, the number two in Britain’s ruling Conservative Party, has urged ministers who disagree with his views on Brexit to stop leaking against him.

“It would be helpful if my colleagues — all of us — focused on the job in hand,” he told the BBC on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, The Sunday Times had cited as many as five ministers in a story that showed Hammond in a bad light.

The chancellor, who is responsible for economic and fiscal policy, reportedly called public-sector workers “overpaid” during a cabinet meeting. He clarified to the BBC he was referring to civil servants’ generous taxpayer-funded pensions. Read more

British Conservatives Split Into Three After Election Defeat

British prime minister Theresa May delivers a news conference together with Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, in Swansea, March 20
British prime minister Theresa May delivers a news conference together with Carwyn Jones, the first minister of Wales, in Swansea, March 20 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Jay Allen)

Brexit, last month’s lousy election result and Theresa May’s deal with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to stay in power have divided Britain’s Conservatives into three camps, writes Matthew d’Ancona in The Guardian:

  1. Ideologues: Worshippers of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand who believe the Thatcherite revolution is unfinished. “Like all millenarian cults, they take for granted the manifest truth of their arguments and were offended by the supposed left-wing content of May’s manifesto.”
  2. Explainers: They blame the party’s disappointing election result not on principles or priorities but on communication and strategy. They are right to an extent, according to d’Ancona: “distracted by Brexit and corrupted by a sense of entitlement, the Tories must recover the art of communication and elucidation.”
  3. Adapters: Modernizers who do believe the party needs to change its policies. “They understand that the world is changing at an unprecedented pace and that the old solutions are running out of road. In a century of automation, globalization, new forms of inequality and shifting assumptions about the role of the state, it isn’t enough for Conservatives to sound like a retro 80s show.” Read more

Conservatives Have Neglected Their Responsibility to the Union

The flags of the United Kingdom and Scotland fly in Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands, July 3, 2014
The flags of the United Kingdom and Scotland fly in Sumburgh on the Shetland Islands, July 3, 2014 (Julien Carnot)

The full name of Britain’s ruling party is the Conservative and Unionist Party, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they have governed lately. Read more