Can the Tories win the next election?

FOLLOWING LABOUR’S disastrous local election results this is a
question that many people are now asking. After years of un-electability,
is it possible that under their new leader, David Cameron, they could
return to haunt working-class people? Steve Score looks at the prospects
for the Tory Party.

The question seems more plausible because of the growing discontent
with New Labour, and Tony Blair in particular. Their pro-big business
policies, the destruction of public services, political corruption, the
disaster in Iraq, have all contributed to this. In the local elections
this opposition fractured in different directions. But there is currently
no mass workers’ party to provide a viable national alternative to the
main parties.

Local elections

In this context the Tories have been recovering from the dire
situation they have been in for the last nine years. This was clearly
shown in the local council elections where Labour lost 319 seats and the
Tories gained 316. If the polls had been completely national, the
projected share of the vote on that basis would have been 40% for the
Tories with Labour on 26%, 1% behind the Liberals.

An analysis of the results by the Electoral Reform Society for the
Observer suggested, even after accounting for the differences between
general and local elections, Labour could lose 149 MPs in a general
election, bringing them down to 206. The Tories on the other hand could
increase their current 198 to over 300, which along with boundary changes
could put them "on the verge of an overall majority."

Yet the local elections this year did not take place everywhere and
are not therefore a complete guide to how things may pan out. For
example, the support for the Tories in Scotland and Wales, where there
were no elections, remains minimal. In the big cities in the North, the
Tories did not make progress, failing for example to win a single seat in

Thatcher’s legacy

The Tories have suffered as a result of their eighteen years in power
up to 1997, in particular from the hatred of Thatcher and her naked class
war against working-class people. Many working-class people have never
forgotten her role and vote to keep the Tories out. In reality, they
still have a long way to go.

It is true that the move back to the Tories from previous traditional
Tory voters particularly in parts of the South and Midlands may account
for much of their recovery, but could they also win over bigger sections
of working-class voters?

The extent to which New Labour have destroyed the past reputation of
the party as being the defender of public services is shown by a new ICM
poll for the Guardian. When Thatcher claimed: "the NHS is safe in our
hands", most people knew it was laughable. The Tories were seen as the
party that privatised our services and with sleazy connections to the

Whenever polls asked which party people trusted on public services it
was always Labour, despite the fact they were in the past seen as
"weaker" on the economy.

In a complete turnaround the Tories are now ahead on both health and
education! Ironically, Labour leads on handling the economy, emphasising
their new role as being ‘trusted’ by big business. This particular lead
will only remain whilst the economy appears relatively stable, and could
melt away rapidly if the economy nose-dives between now and the general

With David Cameron in charge of the Tories, there has been a serious
attempt to expunge the memories of Thatcher. It has to be said that
sections of the press, up to now, are also more sympathetic to him than
to previous Tory leaders.


He has embarked on a campaign to improve their image. Of course, the
substance is still the same – another capitalist party. Labour is getting
its worst attacks on services, such as education, through parliament with
Tory support. When Cameron talks about helping the poor, or that there is
"more to life than money", he can do it from the comfort of being an old-Etonian

When he talks about having "to be blue to be green", and trying to
prove it by cycling to work, he is then embarrassed by the revelation
that a car follows him behind the bike to work with his clothes and

The Tories had the problem that Blair stole their policies, now
Cameron is attempting to steal Labour’s style!

He has even apparently turned to bite the hand that feeds him in by
attacking big business. He says that the Tories have been "painted into a
corner" as being the party of "unbridled capitalism" and is keen to get
rid of that image. He talks of "corporate social responsibility" and has
criticised WH Smiths, Tesco’s and BHS. The latter was for a range of
"sexy" clothes for young children, which they withdrew three years ago.
Despite this, sections of big business are now looking more favourably on
the Tories.

Cameron, for all his "modernising" image, is attempting to take the
Tories back to a past period. This was when, as the main party of big
business, they nevertheless portrayed themselves as representing everyone
– "one nation". If they came to power of course the policies would be
more of the same "Thatcher-Blairism".

Whether the Tories can make a comeback depends not so much on
Cameron’s make-over as the extent to which anger against Labour can
outweigh the memories of the Tories’ past record.


Whenever Blair does step down, there will be a new Labour leader by
the time of the general election, most likely Gordon Brown. In the minds
of some people this change at the top will signify some hope of a return
to "old Labour values". The reality is of course that Brown will continue
on the same fundamental course as Blair.

The fact that leaders’ personalities play such a part is a reflection
of the ending of Labour’s traditional role as a "workers’ party", despite
always having a leadership that accommodated itself to capitalism. It was
Blair himself who promoted the "presidential" style of leadership.

However, events will be the key to the result of the next general
election: what happens in the economy, struggles of workers against the
attacks on jobs, pensions and services and so on.

No doubt the Labour leadership will be using the threat of a return of
the Tories as a means to try to keep Labour votes, and as an argument
against any socialist or working-class candidates. But for millions of
people the reality will be: "What is the difference?"

The only way to break out of any cycle of government by one big
business party or another is to create a new one. This is why the
Socialist Party has been campaigning for the creation of a new mass
workers’ party that can provide an alternative to war, privatisation,
cuts in services and living standards.