The Spectator

The Tories have no plan b

The Tories have no plan b
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Fraser's piece is already making waves. The reason for this is that it poses the question that all Tories are thinking about but dare not voice - not least because they do not know the answer to the question: "If not Dave, then who?" To lose a fourth successive general election, as the polls suggest the Conservatives are on course to do, would be a savage blow to any party. The years 1992-94 (post-Kinnock, pre-Blair) have been airbrushed out of Labour Party history, but they should act as a terrible warning to those Tories who think that a bit of creative disunity now is what the party needs. As David Hare recalls in his book Asking Around, Labour was catatonic with grief and confusion after the 1992 defeat; Robert Harris wrote that the Labour Party, "as presently constituted", would never win an election again. Under John Smith, the modernisers lost their grip on the party and their collective sense of purpose: Tony Blair even thought of chucking it in and going back to the bar, only to be dissuaded by Gordon Brown (an irony if ever there was one). It was only the tragedy of Smith's death that put Blair at the helm of the party and renewed the modernisation process. What Fraser's piece shows is that there is no clear post-Cameron Plan B and no obvious dauphin waiting in the wings with a plan. No wonder Tory MPs are so rattled and were so supportive of their embattled leader at the 1922 meeting yesterday evening. But, as today's poll in the Daily Telegraph shows, the voters have already formed the impression that Dave is not in charge of his party. I am told that his performance before his MPs last night was very impressive: he will need to make many more such speeches after the recess. The Conservative Party is dicing with death.