VAL 2016 | Säg den glädje som varar. När Labour valde Jeremy Corbyn till partiledare var det många konservativa som tackade högre makter.
Inom partiet var näst intill säker på att regeringsmakten var näst intill säkrad för lång tid framöver när det största oppositionspartiet valt en partiledare långt ut på vänsterkanten.
Detta naturligtvis under förutsättning att man inte förflyttade partiet för långt ut åt höger. Detta var också premiärminister David Camerons strategi efter partiets överraskande valseger. Man ville säkra sin position i mitten.
Men det var innan de interna partistriderna inför folkomröstningen om medlemskapet i EU. Nu befinner sig Conservatives i ett inbördeskrig mellan ”Leavers” och ”Remain”.
Skiljelinjerna mellan anhängarna till Brexit respektive Bremain går rakt igenom regeringen. Sex ministrar har t.ex. valt att stödja ett utträde.
Och detta är bara de som öppet har tagit ställning för ett utträde. Hur stort mörkertalet är i realiteten är det ingen som vet.
Simon Heffer, kolumnist i The Daily Telegraph och The Sunday Telegraph, har skrivit i New Statesman om stridigheterna och David Camerons krishantering.
The Conservative Party is approaching not only a historic referendum, but a historic moment of crisis. It is deeply divided over whether or not to stay in the European Union, and the divisions are unequal. At the top, most want to stay in: not out of conviction, but because most ministers have found it politic to agree with David Cameron, even if they cannot support his view that he got a great deal from other EU countries after his supposed “renegotiations” with them. Among MPs generally the mood is far more hostile; and at the party’s grass roots it is predominantly in favour of leaving. Where this ranks in the history of Tory party crises is not easy to say.
The current division is open and is breeding hostility, luxuries afforded by one of the Tories’ few unifying beliefs: that Labour poses no threat at the moment, and they can have a quarrel that may even verge on civil war without fearing electoral consequences. Whatever the outcome, the present quarrel allows the opportunity for a major realignment of the party without it having to go out of office. A minister who is (just, and after much soul-searching) committed to our staying in the European Union told me frankly last week that the Tory party was “a mess” and that, whatever happened on 23 June, the referendum would be the beginning and not the end of a painful process for the Conservatives.
There is an idea on both sides that scores will have to be settled after 23 June, and, the way things are going with party discipline and out-of-control aides in Downing Street, such an outcome is inevitable. Should Remain prevail, a wise prime minister would understand that this was a time to heal wounds and not deepen them. It remains a matter of conjecture how wise Cameron, whose vindictive streak is more often than not on the surface rather than beneath it, is prepared to be.
Those who work for his party at the grass roots, and on whom MPs depend to get the vote out at elections, will be unimpressed by a purge of those who have not backed him over Europe. There isn’t much of a voluntary party left, and there will be even less of one if he acts rashly in victory. If it is a narrow victory – and it is, at this stage, hard to envisage any other sort – his party could become unmanageable unless he acts with restraint and decency.
Conservatives worried about the stability of their party believe that only Labour under a new, more effective and less factional leader could present the serious electoral challenge to them that would shake them out of these unprecedentedly acrimonious and self-indulgent divisions. We can only imagine how differently the In campaign would be conducted if Labour had a nationally popular and an obviously electable leader.
As it is, many more dogs are likely to be unleashed. Things promise to become far nastier, dirtier and ever more internecine for the Tories, not just before 23 June but for a long time afterwards: and with the party in power for at least four more years, one can only guess what that means for the governance of Britain.
Tidskriftsomslag: New Statesman, 8-14 april 2016.