May's predicament is an inevitable consequence of the flawed way the Conservative Party chooses its leadersby Tim Bale / June 20, 2017 / Leave a comment
A recently published review seems to sum the Conservative Party’s general election pretty well, no?
In fact, the portrait of the … campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.” It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by operatives on the ground … and that ignored … advice.
Except, of course, that it doesn’t sum up that campaign. I’ve lifted those words from the New York Times’s review of Shattered: Inside Hilary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes to make a point. And the point is this: as a political party you can have access to the greatest resources and some of the cleverest people on the planet, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily know what you’re doing or that you’re going to win—especially if the person in whom you’ve invested all that money and all that expertise simply isn’t up to it.
On the face of it, the Tory Party looks less likely than its rivals, and its counterparts in other countries, to land itself in that predicament. After all, its rules make it a good deal easier to ditch a leader who isn’t doing well than is the case in many other parties. They also limit the choice of candidates available to ordinary members voting in its leadership contests to two people who’ve been effectively vetted by MPs—who, in turn, have presumably had a pretty good chance to see what the candidates are made of at close quarters over a few years at Westminster.
But in reality, it doesn’t often work out like that. When leaders are struggling, they are allowed to carry on far longer than is sensible—so much so that the Tories can easily appear more useless than ruthless. And when they eventually do get replaced, the party often seems more intent on picking people for want of a better alternative,…