Tory Party is run like HMV… and will go the same way, says Conservative MP for Clacton DOUGLAS CARSWELL
00:56 GMT, 3 March 2013
01:51 GMT, 3 March 2013
When the Tories finished third in the Eastleigh by-election 20 years ago, it came as a shock. Last week, when we came third, it was half-expected. Nothing better illustrates the long-term decline in Conservative fortunes.
For a generation, the Conservative Party has been fighting a long retreat. An endangered species in much of the north of England, we are all but extinct in Scotland.
Towns and cities across England that within living memory returned Conservative majorities to the town halls and MPs to Parliament are now Tory-free.
This week's Tory defeat in Eastleigh, won by the Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Thornton, pictured left with Nick Clegg, was half-expected, says Clacton MP Douglas Carswell
When the Conservatives last won an overall majority in Parliament, we held Eastleigh with an 18,000 majority.
Today, we can scarcely win a seat on the council. In Hampshire, for goodness sake! What has gone wrong
‘Is it all because of David Cameron’ a BBC producer asked me, hoping that I would agree.
If only our problem in places like Eastleigh was that simple. It is about something much more fundamental than the leadership.
The Conservative Party faces two existential questions – one about the economy, the other about ourselves – which, unless we can find the answer, make Eastleigh ominous, not just an unlucky mid-term blip.
At the heart of the Tory Party lies a vacuum where there ought to be an economic policy.
Ever since we abandoned our belief in monetarism two decades ago, we have failed to replace it with anything coherent that works.
Is it David Cameron's fault If only it were that simple, says Douglas Carswell
At first, it did not seem to matter. By no stretch of the imagination did people in Eastleigh, or elsewhere, stop voting Conservative because we were not reining in the money supply.
But the fact that we had no free market alternative to monetarism started to matter.
When boom turned to bust we seemed as surprised as anyone. Without a coherent alternative, we have struggled to find the right economic answers ever since.
The Coalition is set to borrow more in five years than Gordon Brown managed in 13. Instead of cutting taxes, this Tory-led administration has significantly raised them.
Rather than a return to sound money and banking, we have carried on with the last Labour government’s print-more-money-and-pray economics.
Try selling such an approach on the doorstep in Eastleigh. Where was the compelling economic reason to vote Conservative
In many constituencies across the country, our local party structure is almost as hollow as our approach to the economy.
In Eastleigh, like in so many other parts of the country, party membership is down dramatically on what it used to be.
Why In the age of the internet it has never been easier to build a mass membership organisation.
In Eastleigh, the Liberal Democrats apparently held almost all the local council seats.
What was it about the local Conservative association that failed to
draw in talented, able local people willing to serve their local
The Conservative Party is run a bit like HMV and will go the same way if it does not change, says a Tory MP
Party conferences, which were once a place where local activists might meet and exchange good ideas, have been taken over by big corporate interests, the volunteers priced out.
Political parties are first and foremost in the business of retail. They exist in order to get us to buy into politicians and their policies. But in the age of the internet, retail is changing.
HMV, the music retailer, went bust. Why It had a declining market share and costly overheads.
The Conservative party is run a bit like HMV, and if it does not change, it will go the way of HMV.
What we need instead is to be like the music-streaming service, Spotify.
Online, you can dip in and out. It is based on self-selection, catering to tastes no matter how niche, distinctive, particular or local.
The Conservative Party needs to become a genuinely grass roots organisation once again. It needs to open up its selection process to everyone.
It needs to be a platform on which local people can stand in order to achieve change.
The Tory Party needs to harness the mood of anti-politics that we saw in Eastleigh.
Until it learns to do so, it will be its victim.