Are we seeing the return of the nasty party?

Are we seeing the return of the nasty party?

Henry G Manson asks whether we are seeing the return of the nasty party?

Ten years ago Home Secretary Theresa May told her party’s annual conference that too often the Conservative Party was viewed as “the nasty party”. There’s been considerable efforts shake off that image under David Cameron since 2005 with a new stance of social issues. Peter Hoskins writing at Conservative Home and in the Times warns the Prime Minister of a “fresh sourness” in some of his recent speeches which “jars against his earlier freehwheeling optimism”.

Now it has been revealed in the Evening Standard that five right wing Conservative MPs are soon to publish a book in which its authors make an extraordinary range of stinging attacks. “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world” they write. “Too many people in Britain, we argue, prefer a lie-in to hard work.” Instead “lazy” Britain needs to “rediscover the lost virtue of hard graft”.

These are strong words that will make waves in the next few days as well as again before their party conference when the book is published. The sweeping generalisations seem seriously ill-judged at a time many people are struggling to make ends meet. Many will resent five Conservative MPs (with backgrounds in lobbying, financial services, business law, professional politics and think tanks) sneering at their efforts. 

It risks becoming something of a pattern coming only 3 months after a backlash following William Hague telling business leaders to stop complaining and “work hard” instead.

There are real political risks for the Conservative Party here led by a leadership team who can hardly be described as ‘self-made men’. When reflecting on findings as to why the Conservatives failed to win a majority in 2010, Lord Ashcroft wrote:

 “The biggest barrier, which was not overcome by election day and remains in place for most of them, is the perception (which Tories are sick of hearing about but is real nonetheless) that the Conservative Party is for the rich, not for people like them. As with Conservative voters, Considerers who had never voted Tory were more negative in their views than those who had done so in the past.”

David Cameron in the early phase of his leadership would disowned the remarks of these five Conservative MPs. He would have defined himself against the sour and sneering tone and said that this is not what the Conservative Party under his leadership was about. But whether he is in a sufficiently strong enough position to do so now remains to be seen. Either way it is a political gift hamper for the Conservative Party’s opponents.


Henry G Manson

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