Yesterday, I headed out of London on the M4 to rural Berkshire for George Freeman’s “Big Tent Ideas”, lazily referred to in the media as the “Tory Glastonbury”. Several things to say about it: one, although the focus of the whole thing was undeniably reviving the fortunes of the Conservative Party, particularly amongst young people, there were plenty of non-Tories there; two, I actually had quite a good time, but then again, I am bam within the target audience for a “policy festival”, I suppose; three, if the Tories want to revive their fortunes via the ways discussed in Berkshire yesterday, I think that would be very exciting for British politics indeed. Speaking on the day were several members of the 2017 intake, and their politics were very close to mine from the sounds of things; they want the Tories to become the socially and economically liberal party many are crying out for.
I even found myself feeling very Toryish at one point until I remembered one important thing: all of these wonderful liberal types are currently in a party in which Jacob Rees-Mogg is the preferred next leader and prime minister, and if not him, Boris. That isn’t a minor problem in all of this, but a rather major one.
Tomorrow I’m heading to Brighton for Labour conference. I have no doubt that at things like Progress events, I will encounter many who are politically close to me, and in the moment I will feel a bit Labourish. Until I quickly remember that Jeremy Corbyn is the leader and that the party is in the grip of a far-left cabal whose hold on power within the party is only getting tighter.
The sad thing is, if somehow, someway, you could get the George Freeman style Tories and the Progress style Labour folk to drop all former partisan attachments and work together, British politics could almost certainly emerge from its current funk and move forward. This, as you will already know, is so much harder than it sounds. I don’t blame anyone on either side for this accommodation not being possible. Yet I can’t help but feel sad about it all just the same.
I will cheer on the liberal side of the Tories, just as I do the same for the liberals within the Labour Party. It is sad that they are both losing ground within their respective parties at present, which is why they need all the support they can get.