Social conservatism is dead. Gone. And the Tories aren’t going to get anywhere near a majority while carrying that dead weight. The abortion referendum in Ireland was the final nail in their coffin, proving once and for all that any appetite for social conservatism is satiated. The party needs to modernise, or its next on the menu.
The fact is that the recession is 11 years ago now, the younger generation have forgotten it and the older generation can’t remember it. Economic debate is gone from politics and social policy has once again taken centre stage. Brexit, immigration, abortion, free speech, its all back on the table and its one of the Conservative parties’ weakest areas. Their voting record on abortion, racial equality and gay rights is poor, and despite Cameron’s efforts to modernise, May is moving the party back in that dark, historic direction. But without socially liberal policies the party is going to fail, the younger generation is not moved by economic arguments, they are moved by social policy. No one leads rallies or makes historic speeches over a 1% raise in inflation. No one ever said, ‘I have a dream that one day my sons and daughters will pay 10% less VAT then me’. While the party is strong on economics, its social platform is unfit for purpose. The youth are the future of England and they are not going to experience the typical flip to Tory at 37, because opinions on social policies don’t change over time. Once pro-immigration always pro-immigration etc. And their children will be raised in anti-Tory circles, and so the cycle will continue until finally the party collapses, likely being lead by Boris Johnson.
By no means does this reform necessarily have to mean capitulating to the lefts social agenda. The party should define itself not in opposition to the Labour Party exclusively, but in opposition to the state. It should re-adopt the policies of classical liberalism it has its origins in, after it broke off from the Whigs, and push for a more radical and more libertarian agenda. The Conservative Party has always been economically liberal, why not become socially liberal too. We need to accept the new reality of the social climate in Britain, not oppose it. Stand up for the individual, for the rights of the person and oppose the intrusions of the state while welcoming the masses of people who at present will not vote for a party with such a poor set of social policies.
But May cannot facilitate this change, the party needs new leadership to bring new energy and popularity to it. The person best suited to lead the Tories is Ruth Davidson, a gay, young woman from Scotland. She would shine light into corners of the party which haven’t seen it in years. And when all is said and done the Conservatives can propel themselves into election success on a platform of individualism, libertarianism and freedom.