Saturday, August 13, 2005

What is the Conservative Party for?

This time its Norman Tebbit asking, having suggested that the only thing it is good for at the moment is providing jobs for politicians.

In a powerful op-ed in The Daily Telegraph, he points out that, in 1951, Atlee lost an election with 13.9 million votes. In 1997, Labour only gained 13.5 million, from an electorate 10 million larger. After eight years in office, Labour's total fell to 9.5 million. After eight years in office, Margaret Thatcher's vote increased by 100,000 and in 1992, before they discovered that he was not Margaret Thatcher, the electors gave John Major 14.1 million, the highest ever Tory vote, after 13 years of Conservatism.

Labour's success in 2005 did not come from electoral appeal, but from the utter failure of the Conservative Party. Tony Blair's victory was gained with fewer votes than Major polled in the Labour landslide of 1997. Something began to go wrong with the Tory party in the 1990s, and it has got worse. Now only 15 per cent see us as relevant. When Labour and Tories stood on similar ground, the voters reluctantly, resignedly voted for the dog they knew over the one they didn't.

His prescription is to return to core values – not the "touchy-feely" garbage of the "modernisers" but the true principles. "Conservatives hold that people are sovereign," writes Tebbit. "The state exists to serve the people, and is our agent in tasks we cannot undertake on our own behalf - ensuring the defence of the kingdom and our right to go about our lawful business. These, together with the provision of a currency and of civil and criminal law, are the defining aspects of government." He continues:

It is on these understandings that a Conservative government should rule. It should regain the power to make our laws and to control who should be admitted here. That would mean a fundamental renegotiation of the structure of the EU or of our relationship with it. "Ever-closer union" should be repudiated, along with the supremacy of the European Court, and we should look to normal government-to-government treaties to conduct activities such as cross-border trade, pollution control and extradition.

An early exit from the European agricultural and fisheries policies, renewed sovereignty over our coastal waters and an end to the European Court's extra-territorial jurisdiction would be embraced, while withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights and the repeal of the Human Rights Act would restore the common sense position that foreign nationals do not enjoy the full protection of our law until they are lawfully admitted here.
We're right with you there, Norman. If the Conservatives did finally get a grip on these issues, they might just get elected. As it stands, they haven't a hope.

But there is one caveat. We agree with you that, "we should look to normal government-to-government treaties to conduct activities such as cross-border trade, pollution control and extradition", but the powers of government to make treaties must be constrained.

From the experience of how easy it is to slide through massive changes under the nose of Parliament, the Crown prerogative must be abolished and the Ponsonby rule must be ditched. No government should have the power to sign a treaty without first getting an explicit mandate from Parliament, and ratification should always require an affirmative vote.

Otherwise, as we have seen, we simply substitute one form of tyranny for another.

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