Philip Stephenson-Oliver writes that the Conservatives can be the best party for the socially liberal, economically realistic young generation, and should let the “swivel-eyed loons” join UKIP if they want to.
Anyone remotely in touch with the changing political climate of this country will know that, on the whole, the public is becomingly progressively more liberal in their attitudes towards racial, sexual and cultural equality and I for one welcome this change. For me it resembles an ever maturing society at ease with itself.
However for a political party to gain in this new territory of liberal and tolerant politics it must not only promote policies that chime with these voters, it must more importantly be seen to be a party that generally believes in a modern, compassionate and liberal social policy. As the country becomes progressively more liberal on attitudes such as gay and racial equality you would find that as the Conservative leadership slowly adopted and modernized its views it would be scuppered by sudden outbursts from its councillors or membership.
David Cameron’s modernising agenda was constantly set back by sudden expressions of ignorance and bigotry from members of his own party. A Tory councillor from some small village in the middle of nowhere would suddenly yelp out about how the party has now accepted homosexuality as perfectly normal and how they are now furious about the debasement of the family values.
Thankfully this section of bigots, or the “swivel-eyed loons” as one party insider called them, are slowly drifting away from the great cruise liner of the Conservative Party to the loud annoying frigate, The HMS Farage. We saw this just a couple of days ago when the chinless horse-faced UKIP councillor of David Silvestre, a (quite thankfully) former Conservative I may add, blamed the current floods on the gay marriage law.
This drift away of the very traditional Tory voters poses the party several problems.
It first splits the Right wing vote which could deprive the Conservatives of a majority. However it does create a huge opportunity or major catastrophe. The opportunity is to transform the Conservative Party into a party of true social liberalism and economic realism. This could ensure the party establishes itself as the dominant force in British politics for many years to come.
The other option and most likely consequence is a mini meltdown within the Conservative Party. We will see how best the party reacts after the European elections. If the party falls to third place and UKIP tops the ballot there are two ways the party will go. The Right will demand a leadership challenge and demand a reversal of government policy in which case the party will look hilariously divided and will no doubt lose the next election. Or it will stick to the course and promote a more progressive and sensible image.
The only way the party can remain a dominant force in British politics is to appeal to new young voters who on a whole are broadly sympathetic to a centre-right economic policy and are extremely sympathetic to liberal social policy. When young people see Tory MPs wittering on about problems caused by equal marriage you find a huge proportion of potential Conservatives utterly put off. Young people see the concept of not allowing gay people to marry as abhorrent as not permitting two people to marry one another based on the colour of their skin. And many MPs do not see this.
UKIP does give the party a grand opportunity to fundamentally change the makeup of our party. Whilst the hard right drift away and become less of a nuisance to the Conservative cause, the leadership can truly start to appeal to young voters as I feel they are already doing at present. Broadly people like David Cameron more than his own party. And he should capitalise on this.
Labour is seen as dull, incompetent and worse than useless. The Lib Dems have become the political equivalent of a dead parrot. Only true, loyal Lib Dem voters and unsure Labour voters will vote for them during the next election. The Conservatives have a real chance to look the only credible party of government. They will lose this if they have a panic attack about UKIP.
UKIP can act as the black hole into which David Cameron can throw all the old and disturbing ideas that still fester within the party. I suggest he uses it.
Philip is LGBT Officer for Kent Union, at the University of Kent.