The two parties in British politics are divided. The Labour party is divided about Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and whether, or not, it should move towards the absolute left. After all, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor is a self-confessed Marxist. The Conservative party is divided about Brexit, Theresa May’s leadership and whether, or not, it should move to the centre of the political scale.
The Labour divisions were very apparent this week in the House of Commons, when Corbyn and frontbench Labour MPs voted with the government against staying in the Single Market and Customs Bill, which might have kept an option for staying in the Single Market and Customs Union. Consequently, Labour Remainers were furious.
It has been apparent for some months now that the Conservative Party is having a public tug of war between the wannabes of the centre and the staunchly right. A group of centrist Tories are making a lot of noise about re-defining Conservative values, as PM May has tried to do. But this movement is ambitious outside of May’s policymaking and they are attracting attention and seen as a ladder to success by some of the new intake.
May brought inequality and injustices to the fore when, by default as the only remaining candidate, she won the 2016 election, which created the momentum for unfairness to be better addressed; an increasing voice towards liberalism, progressivism and modernity is heard amongst Conservatives. The virtue signalling drifters to the Tory Left have morphed into social justice warriors, who claim society owes something to the underprivileged. The Tory Right believes in social mobility, whereby you make your own way in life, with government providing the environment for you not the mobility itself.
Thatcherism is still perceived as Conservatism’s 20th century success, Conservatives in general want to wear her clothes. The Left drifters are borrowing Lady Margaret Thatcher’s clothes, adjusted with a nip, a tuck and accessorised with a tinge of pink to suit their purpose. The Right will wear the clothes as they inherited them because they fit and suit their values. It is a battle for the interpretation of One Nation Conservatism and a free market, a lower tax, but with higher receipts for the Chancellor that mean more public spending and more employment opportunities for folks to lift themselves out of hardship. The Right side of Conservatism and traditional capitalism is being defended by Jacob Rees Mogg MP, and the Tory Left bank by the ubiquitous George Freeman, who seems to be leading the debate for Tory reform, even calling for, and obliquely proposing himself as, a new party chairman. Freeman is active daily on one of the instruments that Conservatives are bad at, social media.
In the realm of campaign messaging and communication, presently the Conservative party lags far behind the skill and effectiveness Labour’s army of activists and numbers of followers, let alone the mastery of Trump Republicans, the BJP and the Putin administration. During the 2015 election, the Conservatives’ clever social media contribution helped secure David Cameron’s victory, but today that savoir faire has evaporated. Also, as David Cameron pointed out, Britain is not Twitter, thus the role of local Conservative Associations to ascertain the prevailing message and communicate it to the middle ages and elderly becomes fundamental. In this tug of war for conservative values, it will be the side with functioning local Associations and the best multifaceted social media and cyberspace outreach that wins the rope.