In many ways there is great irony to this piece. While we are in the midst of a Republican controlled White House and a Conservative led Westminster there is a large necessity to discuss why the ideologies to which both governments across the Atlantic supposedly adhere to is in crisis. Whilst it is impossible to ignore both Trump and Brexit within this conversation, something larger is at the heart of it and will need to deal with its consequences.
Ultimately at the heart of the debate is ‘establishment’ politicians against the unique incumbents we seen within both the Republican and Conservative Party. The ‘establishment’ has consisted of figures previously like the Bushes and David Cameron, who were usually allowed control of the party based upon a very simplistic calculation. At that time it was worth both parties sacrificing principles to move into the centre ground and win, while going to the right in both cases would signal defeat, meaning the ‘establishment’ figures maintained a greater and greater control of the party. Now, what happens when the equation is turned right on its head? Republicans said a moderate was needed to take the White House ,yet both Romney and McCain failed in their quest and the Republican Party was instead brought to power by the brazen Donald Trump. In the UK Theresa May spoke wholly from the centre of British Politics, emerging from a manifesto immensely suspicious of free markets and designed to try and persuade Labour voters who disliked Corbyn. The calculation falls apart based upon the significance of both the 2016 US Election and UK general election where winning from the fringes and losing from the centre became apparent very quickly. Take Brexit as another example. Both the Prime Minister, 3 major political parties and every living ex-Prime Minister took the Pro-EU side, yet Dominic MP Raab and other ‘anti-establishment’ figures managed to serve up one of the great political upsets seen by the UK.
However whilst the 307 electoral votes and 43% of the electorate fell in line with different Conservative perspectives at elections, both have yielded similar problems. In the UK the party, following a dismal election showing has divided across ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ Brexit, whatever those terms truly mean, and Trump has unfathomably failed to yield his ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare agenda. Both these divided parties show that power in itself cannot unite a party sufficiently. The crisis point worsens when you consider that this is the outlook inside the halls of power, and once outside it is conceivable that both parties split across its numerous wings. Furthermore, both parties seem unable to inspire an agenda which excites its own voters, with a Conservative failure so far to cut top rate tax below the 45% mark and deliver a ‘free market’ Brexit promised by Liam Fox leading to numerous Tories feeling short-changed in its placement of trust in Britain’s centre-right party. Likewise, Trump has been unable to yield any significant tax reduction, probably the only issue to unite Republicans, and has been a failure by his own standards regarding healthcare. If these situations continue, a serious primary contestation in 2020 coupled with numerous leadership challenges can be the only result. If the parties remain this ineffective whilst holding power time spent in opposition will be unquestionably difficult.
Overall, it seems hard to be positive about Conservatism across the Atlantic. However, in many ways this reality shock was needed, for the overconfidence shown by Theresa May was astounding in the election and Trump’s brazen and sometimes obscene remarks are not acceptable for one of America’s great parties. Yet, in all this criticism and every potential leadership contest, May could have until 2022 if not longer to sort out her issues in government and Trump still has the vast majority of his term. Who can say when this point of crisis will end and begin.
By Marcus Foux