Donal Blaney: You cannot make friends of your enemies by making enemies of your friends
Every week the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of the Young Britons' Foundation, Donal Blaney, explains one of Morton Blackwell's Laws of the Public Policy Process. Morton Blackwell is the Founder and President of the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
This is another timely maxim, given David Cameron’s recent attack on those who support UKIP (whom he described as closet racists). Theresa May also fell foul to this Rule when she referred to Conservatives as “the nasty party”. Others in the Party leadership have also repeatedly attacked the values of rank and file Conservative activists. The purpose of such statements is simple – to make friends of those hitherto perceived as being enemies of the Conservative Party, such as the BBC and the Guardian.
But is this actually a sensible strategy to pursue? This maxim suggests otherwise.
Politics is a cut-throat business. It is a trade that attracts more than its fair share of Machiavellians. It is easy to think of individuals who have jettisoned previously longstanding friendships in the pursuit of power or self-advancement (most notably, of course, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown). Political ambition, jealousy, petty grievances and subterfuge are very much the essence of politics. The behaviour of New Labour has exacerbated a trend that doubtless began some years before where power for its own sake was seen as an end in itself.
There is little point grumbling about this. Much of this is the fault of the media but it is unlikely to change. Enoch Powell once remarked that a politician complaining about the press is as pointless as a ship’s captain complaining about the ocean. We can hope for higher-minded individuals and a more sober level of debate but as desirable as that may be, it may be naïve.
And yet because interaction, relationships and friendships are central to what makes us human, when a friendship is perceived as having been betrayed – even a political friendship – it causes a level of upset that can last a considerable period of time.
The enemies of the Conservative Party – the bien pensant left epitomised by the BBC, the Guardian, Polly Toynbee and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown – will NEVER support the Conservative cause unless the Party abdicates the principles and values that inspired us all to become activists and Party members. Even then, that support will ebb away at the slightest opportunity. If the Party gives these enemies of Conservatism an inch, they will want a mile. There is ultimately no pleasing them.
This does not mean that the Party should go out of its way to insult or upset these enemies of Conservatism. However the current approach of the Party leadership seems to involve kowtowing to such enemies by making enemies of Conservatism’s friends. The business community has been attacked. Rural homeowners have been accused of being NIMBYs standing in the way of progress. Eurosceptics who occasionally support UKIP in preference to the Tories have been derided as fruitcakes and racists. Parents and patients crying out for choice in education and health have been rewarded by seeing education vouchers and patients’ passports being withdrawn.
Tony Blair and John Prescott have worked tirelessly to ensure that a broad coalition has been in place to advance the Labour government’s agenda. While Blair courted the centre ground, Prescott has acted as a reassuring presence to the Left in the same way that Willie Whitelaw acted a reassuring influence to the patrician wing of the Party under Margaret Thatcher. Thus far – perhaps in a misguided belief that traditionalists and Eurosceptics have nowhere else to go – all effort has gone into pursuing the so-called centre ground at the expense of shoring up “the core vote”.
The Editor of this blog has focussed on the And Theory of Conservatism but until now that theory has been disregarded. In the same way that the election campaigns of 2001 and 2005 have been criticised for solely focussing on the core vote, so the same criticism can be levied against the current Party leadership for solely focussing on the centre ground.
The And Theory should be the central basis of the Party’s strategy between now and the next general election. The current approach – of making enemies of the Party’s friends by making friends of the Party’s enemies – is a less preferable strategy.
Previous entry in this series: Don’t get mad – except on purpose