I don’t know how many readers on here are familiar with the recent political history of Britain, but we have seen our conservatives gain popularity and media influence, only by moving to a position most definitely in the centre, if not downright liberal.
As happens with most governments here, when a party has been in power for too long, even if they offer the voters a better choice for the future, and have a far better record, as we Conservatives did (on both counts) in 1997, the voters want a change. So they chose Tony Blair, a man who appeared to be centre-right when he was a shadow Cabinet member, and seemed most certainly an admirer of Thatcher when he was leader of the Labour party. But he was a social liberal, and our country is all the worse for it.
But just as in 1997, anything other than Thatcherite economics would not please the voters, now anything other than social liberalism seems to be too extreme for the voters, because we have had a decade of its dominance, and we have seen it replace conservatism as the mainstream ideology.
I read every now and then about conservative activists in America opposing politicians they deem to be not conservative enough – excellent. This is what our grassroots did not do – we accepted “wets” or liberals, because we, as a movement, wanted power. In doing so, we rejected conservatism, and thus allowed our views to become thoroughly un-mainstream. “Fringe”, even.
The Conservative grassroots is overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the European Union, for example, yet there are only about 20 of our Members of Parliament out of around 200 who would support it – because we allowed stylish and ambitious liberals to represent us, rather than conservatives who believe what we believe.
I hope, for the good of the conservative movement in America, that voters and activists do not repeat this mistake. And it shouldn’t be made as simple as “victory or ideology”, as some writers say: you can stay true to your ideology and still win big. It is a question of how to present an ideology, rather than how to replace it.