Not gaining much publicity yesterday, but still of significance, was the annual Parliamentary rally of the Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), a body that claims to be non-partisan, in Committee Room 12 at the House of Commons. As a perusal of the speakers’ list confirms, the YBF is indeed partisan: it is a deeply conservative body, and it enjoys significant support from within the Tory Party.
Rallying here - somewhere in the building
The YBF is driven forward by someone whose name does not appear on that list, and that is its CEO Donal Blaney, who we have encountered before. Blaney, who is yet another of those right wingers you would not want to get stuck in a lift with, may be unappealing as a potential candidate, but he is not stupid. His role is to work for his cause behind the scenes, and in this he acquits himself well.
And therein lies a problem for the Tory Party: the full blooded conservatism so beloved of Blaney – and many of those speaking yesterday – would, if taken on board by the Tories, shift them well to the right. But the YBF trains and supplies a succession of motivated, active, articulate and media savvy youngsters, who can be relied upon to come to the aid of the party when required.
Where that would lead can be seen by looking at the state of the Republican Party in the USA: right now, there are four contenders chasing the nomination to run for the party in the Presidential Election in November. All four represent different strands: Mitt Romney, the country club patrician, Rick Santorum, the Christian champion of blue collar workers, Newt Gingrich, the embodiment of the otherwise poisonous Southern strategy, and authentic libertarian Ron Paul.
Many supporters of one will not campaign with enthusiasm – and possibly not at all – for any of the others after the nomination is sewn up. And the overwhelming majority have a hatred and intolerance of their Democrat opponents – especially of Barack Obama – that makes the bi-partisanship of the Reagan years almost impossible.
And, as the YBF trains more activists, more of them get on the candidates’ lists, with more becoming MPs. It might give Donal Blaney and those of like mind a warm feeling, but with the need to form a Coalition to get hold of the levers of power, the Tories need a pull to the right like they need a hole in the head. This new conservatism could prove very damaging to them.
Added to the YBF, of course, are “think tanks” like the Adam Smith Institute, the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (both of whom supplied speakers to yesterday’s event), the Centre for Policy Studies, Institute of Economic Affairs, and the rest, all part of the wider conservative movement, and all exerting a pull to the right on a party that needs to appeal to a wide range of views to get elected.
Ideological purity didn’t elect Thatcher or Reagan. But it could kill the centre-right.