Michael Gove was on Radio 4 this morning, talking about the environment but of course, was asked about Brexit and many other things affecting the Tories at present. Whatever you think of his politics, it is amazing how much better at this sort of thing Gove is than most of the rest of the cabinet. Whenever he’s in the media, Michael always reminds me just how shriek-inducing, terrifyingly awful the Prime Minister is at this sort of thing.
Anyhow, the reason I bring the interview up is that having someone as competent as Gove talk about the state of things means you’re not doing what you’re usually doing when a cabinet minister is speaking, i.e. hiding behind the sofa, but rather actually having to think about the state of modern conservatism. And it has problems, but they aren’t the usual problems everyone goes on about.
The real challenge the Tories face on Brexit isn’t the nuts and bolts of the deal. Baring some major disaster, the whole thing will almost certainly be a fudge. I could end up being very wrong about this, but that’s the way I see things as they stand. No, the real problem is that it throws into question what the party is for – and thus, why people should vote for it.
The “dementia tax” in the last manifesto is a symptom of this. The Tories can’t be the “steady hand on the till” any longer, as Brexit demonstrates it wants to throw everything up in the air and start again. But if that’s the case, what does it want this new beginning to actually look like? It lost its majority to a Labour Party that could only cobble together some half-arsed bungs to the middle-classes, it’s worth remembering. The Conservatives will probably get lucky and have to face an even more bereft of solutions Labour Party at the next general election – but I wouldn’t count on this if I was in CCHQ.
Are the Tories the pro-business party? You wouldn’t know it from all the business bashing May and her government engage in. Are they socially liberal or socially conservative? Justine Greening was sacked as Education Secretary – are we to take from that that her approach to education policy was deemed incorrect? If so, what do the Tories want to do with education instead?
I could ask these questions all day. That’s all there is now, questions. Sure, housing seems to be being genuinely thought about, at last. But apart from that, it’s hard to see what the Tories are really thinking about apart from Brexit. Again, Labour seem to be thinking about nothing at all, apart from the usual NHS stuff that has nothing original or insightful about it whatsoever. Labour aren’t even really thinking about Brexit; at least, the leadership isn’t. Perhaps the Tories just float into the next election and win by default. But am I wrong in thinking this vacuum in both the government and the opposition can’t go on indefinitely?