Alex Massie

New Tories: Eurosceptic, Gay Friendly, Barely Unionist and Definitely Not Libertarian

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Conservative Home's survey of 144 of the Tory candidates most likely to enter parliament after the next election is very interesting. It's hardly a surprise that the Tories want British history to be taught in schools, nor that they're in favour of school vouchers and strongly euroscpetic. Nor is it an enormous shock that 48% of them say they would have voted for Barack Obama in the US presidential election (that says more about the state and temper of the contemporary Republican party than it does about either Mr Obama or the Tories).

But it's a sign of how the times have changed that 62% of the Class of 2010 think that same-sex couples should enjoy the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.

And it's also striking that 46% of the next generation of would-be Tory MPs say they are "not uncomfortable about Scotland becoming independent". As Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting suggests, that's an uncomfortable finding for Scottish Tories, some of whom have long-wondered what happens to the Union if England says "no". Now, the Tories aren't there yet and some of this sentiment may simply be a recognition that devolution is here to stay and that if the Scots want to take it all the way to independence then that's their prerogative. It might be a matter for some regret if this old song comes to an end but, well, it's had a good airing and nothing endures forever...

On the other hand, it also creates some difficulties for David Cameron since the combination of a parliamentary party that's clearly going to be less instinctively Unionist and an SNP administration in Edinburgh determined to depict the Tories as a party that's irredeemably hostile to Scottish interests is a pretty toxic one. A Tory party that is less tolerant of some of the inconsistencies and accomodations Unionism has previously embraced as a necessary cost of the deal is one that's likely to further Alex Salmond's interests. (Granted, there's still no majority at Holyrood for a referendum, but still...)

Bizarrely, the Guardian argues that this survey demonstrates that the new breed of Tory is "strongly libertarian". How this poll supports that conclusion is a mystery, given that it finds just 6% of would-be Tory MPs favour relaxing the laws governing the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis while fully 57% either support existing laws of favour toughening them...

Indeed, who'd have thunk that gay marriage would enjoy ten times the support of sensible drug laws? Clearly, some battles still need to be fought and won...

Then again, the Guardian also thinks that the finding that only 32% agree with the statement that intervention to bring about regime change in foreign dictatorships is right in principle, and 57% disagree demonstrates that the Tory party has a "strong isolationist tendency", suggesting that the paper's definition of isolationism is as ignorant and shallow as its idea of libertarianism. 

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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