The day Lord Bonkers and Philip Collins agreed: the Tories just aren’t up to governing

by Stephen Tall on February 6, 2013

This tweet today from The Times’s Philip Collins — mid-debate between Tim Montgomerie and Matthew d’Ancona about the tortuous fate of Tory modernisation — caught my attention:

Partly it’s the implicit praise for the steely resolve the Lib Dems have shown in trying to make the Coalition work. But partly because it reminded me of Lord Bonkers’ alter ego Jonathan Calder’s perceptive blog-post from August last year, which he re-quoted again last week:

The Conservatives’ willingness to throw away the redrawing of constituency boundaries, and thus greatly diminish their chances of a majority at the next election, is odd to say the least.

It strengthens my belief that their backbenches are simply ungovernable. As I have argued before, One of the Coalition parties is not up to government – and it’s not the Lib Dems and David Cameron is the new John Major.

It could all have been different, of course. Perhaps the most perceptive piece written about the failure of the Cameron Modernisation project was penned by Julian Astle the day after the AV referendum tanked:

There was a point, before opinions hardened, when the Prime Minister could actually have embraced the Alternative Vote, as Michael Gove, his modernising Education Secretary, wanted to do. All that would have been required was for him to challenge the pessimistic and self-fulfilling assumption that underpins his party’s opposition to AV – that Conservatives can never attract the second preference votes of other parties’ supporters. Had he done so, he could have finished what he began when he put the Coalition together and initiated a significant realignment of British politics, attracting support not only from Ukip supporters to his Right, but from Liberal Democrats to his Left. It would have been an audacious, “Clause Four” type move which would have diminished, perhaps even removed, the existential threat to the Conservative Party posed by Britain’s non-Tory majority. Instead, he chose to view the existing dividing lines as unchangeable, ensuring that his party’s “us against the world” mentality endures, and endures for good reason.

Cameron could never have dared, you might say. Perhaps so. And therein lies the seeds of his modernising failure.