Wednesday, 7 November 2012

What can Conservatives learn from the Republican defeat in the US?

Like most people with involvement in politics I was up for much of last night watching the American elections.  Unlike many in my party, I was not particularly enamoured with Mitt Romney and I am happy that he didn't win.  That said, I have concerns about Obama too; he has a bit of Tony Blair about him, promising much, strong in rhetoric, but not delivering enough.  I just think the little that he has done outweighed the shortcomings I saw in Romney.

Whilst the system that the US uses to elect its President is very different from ours, there are lessons that I believe the Conservatives need to learn.  In the UK much of the political focus at election time is on target seats (those with the smallest majorities that political parties need to win to secure a majority), huge effort and funding is put into these areas compared to others; in the US Presidential elections huge amounts of time and money has been put on the so-called swing states - those that are close calls where success makes the difference between winning and losing.   At the time of writing Romney has won just one of these states and seems likely to lose all the others, although Florida is still being counted. So in the areas where Romney and Obama put the most effort, Romney has failed to make an impact.

I believe there are two reasons for this, the first is that the Democrats seem to have a much better operation on the ground than the Republicans.  I don't think that is an issue for the Conservatives in the UK, I think our campaigning on the ground is as good as, if not better than, others.  It is the second reason that UK Conservatives have to learn from.  Romney won the Republican nomination by being forced to the right of centre by his opponents and and he never recovered from that in the Presidential campaign.  In particular, the American elections were always going to be won and lost on economic grounds.

If the Conservatives are to win an outright victory in the next General Election it is clear that we have to listen to the voice of the centre ground on the economy.  That means making sure that we balance the need to be economically prudent with a sense of fairness. We are perfectly capable of doing that, but there are those within the party that believe it is "only" about economics, Conservatives will not succeed if their voice wins in policy terms.  Conservatives are believers in responsibility and enterprise - but they are not separate issues - good economics is about getting the balance between enterprise and responsibility right; ignoring the opinions of the struggling working family in the way we work our way out of the economic doldrums is both irresponsible and a recipe for electoral failure (and I don't believe we are doing that now). In contrast to us, the Labour Party just do not understand the need to be economically responsible - which is why we are in a financial mess now (and also why Conservatives inherited a financial mess in 1979).

However, there are other areas where the Conservative Party's right wing position is both right and holds popular support - such as on immigration, the EU (provided the leadership listen and agree to hold an in/out referendum) and ending benefit dependency.

I must admit, I hate the terms left-wing and right-wing, they are too generalist.  As you examine issues across international boundaries it becomes clear that the perception of what is and is not left-wing or right wing varies considerably.  The difficulty is - how do you write a blog post such as this one without using those terms when they are so widely understood?

No comments:

Post a Comment