The Telegraph has an interesting article on the internal divisions of Britain’s Conservative Party.
This is a tale of two parties. It starts at a drinks reception in Manchester, where a senior Conservative is talking about prisons. In his view, far too many people are locked up. Like the Tory grandee Douglas Hurd, he thinks jail is an expensive way of making bad people worse.
Try telling that to the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, who will present himself to conference as the nation’s turnkey. Under his “mug-a-hoodie” strategy, the prison population would rise to 100,000 for the first time in history, and “street rats” could expect no mercy.
On a host of other issues, the party is similarly split. For every save-the-planetarian with a gnat-sized carbon footprint, there is someone who attaches more credence to the tooth fairy than to global warming. For every rationalist arguing that Britain’s future is in Europe, there is a Little Englander who fears, quite wrongly, that we are going to become a dystopia of Brussels bylaws and straight bananas.
The Conservative Party gathered together this week is reformist and reactionary, modulated and spittle-flecked, nice and nasty. Janus-faced, it has one eye focused on the future and the other staring at the past. With the Thatcher legacy still unresolved, libertarians vie with social authoritarians.
The concern of which school of conservative thought an opposition party philosophically bases its policy principles is not limited to Britain. It is the same dilemma faced by the opposition conservative party in two largest economies in the world, the United States and Japan. Britain is the test case, as the next general election will take place on or before June 3, 2010. Japan’s next major election is next summer. America’s next major election is in November next year.