Thursday, 31 December 2009

The noughties were Britain's first Tory-free decade

The noughties were the first ever decade in which the governance of Britain was a Tory-free zone.

They were also, following the 1980s, only the second decade in modern British political history to see one party govern straight through. That is partly a trick of chronology, since the Conservatives began long spells in power in both 1931 and 1951.

But, taking the long view, one can stretch all the way back to the Great Reform Act of 1832 without a similar claim being staked by any party which could consider itself to represent the centre or left of the British political spectrum of its day.

That feat eluded not just the Liberal and Labour parties of the late 19th and 20th centuries, but even the dominant mid-century Whigs who, in the 1850s, faced the rump Tory 'stupid' party split asunder by Peel's repeal of the Corn Laws.

The only single-party decade of the 19th century was that achieved by the reactionary, repressive and generally unprogressive Tories of the 1820s.

Its longevity in office was once New Labour's proudest boast. No longer. In 2010 this will be a theme trumpeted rather more by the opposition by the government, as it was (successfully) in 1964 and 1997, and (unsuccessfully) in 1992. The government wishes to fight not for a 4th term, but to contest the terms of the first election after the financial crisis of 2008.

An offer to keep the Tories out does not any longer, by itself, provide sufficient cohesion for a winning electoral coalition, as it largely did in 2001 and 2005. But in historical perspective, the sustained Conservative absence from power remains a very striking feat. William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard were the first Tory party leaders since Austen Chamberlain ('who always played the game and always lost') not to make it to 10 Downing Street as premier.

The premiership has been a Tory-free zone in one previous decade - the 1910s. But though David Lloyd George did personally hold Cabinet office throughout - indeed continually from 1906-22 - he had to split and destroy his own party to achieve it, with the Conservatives invited into the fractious wartime coalitions of 1915 and 1916, before Lloyd George headed a de facto Tory administration after the war until the backbench revolt at the Carlton Club in 1922 brought that unlikely alliance to an end.

1 comment:

13eastie said...

A Decade of "Labour's Reverse Midas Touch":

1999: 1.5 million
2009: 2.5 million

FTSE 100
Dec 1999: 6930
Dec 2009: 5412

£ / Euro
Dec 1999: 1.60
Dec 2009: 1.13

National Debt as % of GDP
2000: 33%
2010: 72%

For anyone (e.g. deluded Labour core voters) who can't stand the sight of real statistics, try looking at something a little woolier, like Child Poverty (Brown's personal hobby-horse), Labour has also managed to see the UK nominated by the UN as the worst of 21 industrialised nations in which to raise kids.

This is champagne socialism that nobody could celebrate…