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Tories - The Infighting Goes On
EVERYONE OVER 30 in Britain can remember the Tories as a seemingly invincible party of government. Most can also remember when their leader, the Iron Lady, was forced out of office by a mass movement against her most unpopular policy, the poll tax (led by the forerunners of the Socialist Party - Militant).
Today this once powerful party has been reduced to a vicious, in-fighting wreck. At a time when the government is deeply unpopular, by all logic the Tories, as the opposition party, ought to be in the lead in every opinion poll. Instead bookmakers' odds on the Liberal Democrats pushing the Tories into third place at the next general election have shortened considerably.
The fate of the Tories should be a warning to Tony Blair. The Tories were once the most successful capitalist party in the world. Ironically, they succeeded in part because, whatever their differences behind the scenes, in public they put forward a united front against the working class. However, the essence of the secret of their success was the strength of British capitalism - as it declined and went into crisis the Tories followed. New Labour is only an ephemeral shadow of the Tories in their heyday and may well suffer the same fate faster than anyone expects.
The Tories today face enormous obstacles to rebuilding their position. People still remember the crimes they committed during their 18 years in power. At the same time New Labour have largely stolen their policies leaving them thrashing around to find a way of differentiating themselves. Getting rid of IDS, admittedly one of the least charismatic leaders in history, will not solve their problems.
It is not certain who would replace him. Currently speculation centres on Michael Howard, although Tory Party sources recognise that he is unfortunately still unpopular with the public, because of his role as Tory Home Secretary. Even if more 'electable' figures such as Ken Clarke were given the chance to lead the Tory Party now, they may not want to given the likely prospect of defeat at the next election.
And the membership of the Tory Party does not have a record of picking 'electable' leaders. A recent Yougov poll of Tory Party members found that they wanted either William Hague, who led the party to disaster in the last general election, or the devil herself, Maggie Thatcher, to replace IDS!
It is these 'unfortunate' opinions held by the middle-class old men and women who make up the majority of the Tory Party rank and file that has led Michael Heseltine to suggest that party democracy is abolished when it comes to choosing a leader, so the MPs could be given a chance to pick someone who might win a general election!
Inherent in this situation is the prospect of a split in the Tory Party, with the more serious representatives of the capitalist class abandoning the current membership of the Tory Party and starting again.
Spent force as they currently seem, it cannot be ruled that the Tory Party, or a section of it, could overtake New Labour at some point in the future. A new Tory government would be a living hell for working people. New Labour will use this 'bogeyman' to try and keep working-class people voting for them.
However as socialists, while we have no desire to see a return of the Tories, we cannot accept the idea of an endless choice between different brands of big-business politics.
That is why we are calling for a new mass workers' party that stands in the interests of working-class people.
In The Socialist 1 November 2003: