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Category: Conservatives

A call to arms, a very undiplomatic call

Written by Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac.

Back in the late 1990s, we think it was 1997, we were asked by a Serbian policeman what we were doing when we were taking a photo of the newly opened Croatian embassy in Belgrade. The Serbian authorities were very nervous and concerned to protect the Croatian embassy from any incidents because of the recent war which might jeopardise the uneasy peace.

We recall this incident now because of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s call on British citizens to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy. It is one thing for us to demonstrate outside any embassy, it is another for a government minister to call on its citizens to demonstrate against another. We should expect our government to uphold our freedom to demonstrate. But we should also expect our government to uphold the diplomatic international relations between states and the protection of embassies as the representatives of other nation states – just as other governments should do towards our embassies and other foreign embassies. It is a system based on mutual recognition that whatever our current disputes or conflicts, we ultimately recognise each other as fellow nations with mutual interests in peaceful relations. 

The State as Cultural Practice – Who Knew That?

Written by Peter Housden.

As a Permanent Secretary, you yearn for a theory of the state.  In media res, you face a relentless flow of matters large and unbelievably small, multifarious actors strut the stage and you try to provide purpose and leadership for the several thousand souls in your department.  A clear, still voice of reason to enable us to understand the course of history and provide a sense of sanity, proportion, dignity even, in these wonderful jobs would be heaven sent.

A person thus turns to The State As Cultural Practice with high expectations.  It is a book with a big reputation that makes bold claims for its significance.  We are told to expect ‘a new response to old questions about the nature of the state and how to study it.’  It starts well, situating its concerns within a dense and wide-ranging survey of the literature.  Its methodology – seeking to draw meaning through ‘thick descriptions’ developed from interviews and observation in three Whitehall departments between 2001-5  – is rich and potentially generative. 

Life after David Cameron: the Conservatives have lost a major asset

Written by Roger Mortimore

David Cameron – according to Kenneth Clarke – was a PR-obsessed control freak. If that is the case, he is not a bad advert for what PR and control freakery can achieve for a politician’s public standing. Cameron was almost always positively rated by the public – or at least viewed more favourably than is usual for politicians.

He was first elected as an MP in 2001 and was working for the Conservative party before that. But he attracted no notice in the polls before coming apparently from nowhere to emerge as a serious contender for the party leadership in September 2005.

When Ipsos Mori first included him in a poll during that leadership contest, only 8% of the public chose him as their preferred leader. Only 6% thought he would make the most capable prime minister of the four candidates in the running.

England’s new grammar schools: playing with fire?

Written by Glen O’Hara.

Prime Minister Theresa May has recently announced that she wants to allow more selection by ability in England’s schools, and will remove New Labour’s ban on expanding or opening grammar schools. Now that’s probably because she wants to appeal to older voters who might be tempted to come over from the United Kingdom Independence Party to the Conservatives. Maybe she also wants a flagship policy that will stamp her authority on the Government, or a new initiative that will stake out her differences with outgoing premier David Cameron. If so, she should be careful what she wishes for: because grammar schools are an academic, intellectual and above all politicalhazard that might be best avoided.

The world according to Theresa May – China, the US, Europe and the new British PM

Written by Victoria Honeyman.

When Theresa May became UK prime minister she inherited many contentious issues on the international stage, thanks to the British vote to leave the EU. But the diplomatic matter to cause her real problems concerned nuclear power.

After a decade of talks, it looked as though the UK was finally about to seal the deal on building a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Then, at a crucial moment, May put the deal on ice, to the great displeasure of Chinese investors.

In the immediate wake of the announcement, China’s ambassador to the UK urged the UK to press ahead as planned, warning that relations between the two countries were “at a crucial historical juncture”.

May the Force Be With You: Britain’s New Government

Written by Tim Haughton.

For once the journalistic clichés were not over the top. The 23 June referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was a seismic event, an earthquake which brought a dose of destruction to the British political scene: the Prime Minister resigned, allies knifed each other in the Conservative party leadership election, a new Prime Minister was appointed who then undertook one of the most extensive cabinet reshuffles of modern times with some eye-catching appointments and the leader of the Opposition lost a no confidence vote of his parliamentary colleagues. Even caffeine-fuelled journalists found it difficult to keep up with the speed of events.

Like all earthquakes tensions had been building for some time. Divisions in the Conservative party had been evident since the UK first applied to join the then European Economic Community in the 1960s, but since the late 1980s the party had begun to tear itself apart over Britain’s continuing membership of the EU. Whilst a sizeable slice of the Leave vote in the referendum came from traditional Conservative voters in the heartlands of rural England, the Leave side was bolstered by disaffected Labour voters. Both groups were mobilized and emboldened by Leave’s alluring slogan to ‘Take Back Control’. A significant proportion of traditional working class Labour voters, many of whom had stayed at home in previous elections or who had cast their votes for UKIP, used their votes to express their discontent with the state of the government and to give the political class a good kicking.

Why British politicians find it so hard to vote against nuclear weapons

Written by Nick Ritchie.

In 1982, Robert Lifton and Richard Falk wrote about the condition of “nuclearism” – the idea that nuclear weapons can solve our political, strategic and social problems and that they are an essential means of ensuring peace.

This ideology is based on a series of illusions. It rests on the assumption that the use of nuclear weapons can be managed, that their effects can be controlled, and that protection and recovery in a nuclear war are meaningful ideas. Nuclearism thrives despite the absence of compelling evidence about the security benefits of nuclear weapons.

It is argued that the nuclear deterrence prevented the Cold War from turning into all out war. But as academic Benoît Pelopidas argues:

The nuclear peace is not a fact. It is a hypothesis trying to link two observable facts: the existence of nuclear weapons in the world since 1945 and the absence of war between the United States and the Soviet Union during the same period. The nuclear peace hypothesis faces the challenge of proving a negative. In these circumstances, faith in the nuclear peace becomes a bet or a matter of trust.

Michael Gove – not Boris Johnson – is the real contender for next Tory leader

Written by Mark Stuart.

Britain’s “Thatcherites” are an incredibly cohesive bunch. To the despair of historians, they do not write things down. Tory politicians prefer to eschew laborious meetings and minutes in favour of informal dining clubs at which future strategy is debated and plotted. Theirs is a close network of friendships.

This informal club is committed to keeping the Thatcherite flame alive, promoting the beliefs of its hero, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Rightly or wrongly, given Thatcher’s cautious approach to Europe, securing Britain’s departure from the EU is regarded by the vast majority of Thatcherites as furthering one of her greatest aims. Mere ministerial careers may have to be sacrificed to achieve this goal.

Remembering Eric Forth MP

Written by Mark Stuart.

To his friends, Eric Forth, who served as a Conservative MP from 1983 until his untimely death in May 2006, was just an ordinary bloke who wore daft clothes. In the House of Commons, however, he was a larger-than-life character, who became famous for his brightly coloured ties, for his all-night filibusters and his status as ‘the Lord High Executioner’ of private members’ bills on a Friday. But is this a fully accurate portrayal?

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Forth’s death and it provides us with a timely opportunity for a revaluation of his parliamentary career. Forth, however, does not make the task of reevaluation an easy one. He created a caricature of himself, coming across as more right wing than he actually was. Forth may have had a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Elvis Presley in his office, but he was no cardboard cut-out right-winger.

Iain Duncan Smith resignation: flesh wound or more serious blow to Cameron?

Written by Tim Bale.

If there were a Richter Scale of Political Resignations, then prime ministers such as Margaret Thatcher, Harold Wilson and Harold Macmillan would register at the very top – on nine.

Big beasts such as Conservative Chancellor Geoffrey Howe and Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine would register at about seven. Iain Duncan Smith’s departure, on the other hand, would probably score around six.

The work and pensions secretary’s departure is the sort of earthquake that would only inflict slight to moderate damage on solid structures but is capable of causing more severe problems for less stable edifices. Unfortunately for the Conservative Party, at least in the run up to the EU referendum, it fits all-too-easily into the latter category .