| STATESIDE Tories may still lead a merry dance come election time...
days. There are individual policies on issues such as housing or fairness in the workplace – such as planned laws to ensure waiters and waitresses are allowed to keep the tips customers give to them – but they don’t add up to a programme to change society for the better.
Some people will greet Labour’s ideas with enthusiasm while others will think they are totally bonkers.
But there’s no doubt that a plan exists.
You can’t say that about the Tories. And while it’s true that the party needs to communicate its ideas more effectively, it first needs to decide what those ideas are.
But I wouldn’t celebrate just yet if I was a Labour politician.
The Conservatives have been obsessed with Brexit to the exclusion of all else, and while this is a problem for them it was also inevitable – because they actually need to deliver Brexit.
Labour is hopelessly divided over Brexit. Shadow Cabinet members such as Emily Thornberry and Ian Lavery insist that Brexit must happen, while Deputy Leader Tom Watson has raised the idea of including a commitment to a second referendum in Labour’s general election manifesto.
But Labour can get away with being divided. It doesn’t matter if the Shadow Cabinet can’t agree because all they can really do, being in opposition, is sit and watch while the Government attempts to deliver something.
For Conservatives, however, debates about Brexit aren’t just the stuff of party conference votes or TV interviews.
They really are deciding the fate of the country, and their battles are very real.
So perhaps they can be excused for failing to put serious thought into what happens next. And, more importantly, things could change once Brexit takes place on March 29 next year.
Brexit will be a process rather than an event. It won’t suddenly be over next March, especially if we enter a transition period where very little will change for a while.
But (unless something very dramatic and unexpected happens in the meantime) we’ll have left the EU.
And we’ll probably know what sort of deal we’ve got. Chequers, Canadaplus or no-deal?
That debate, which has consumed the Conservative Party and the media but means little to many voters, will finally be over.
It will provide space for the Tories to think hard about how they counter Jeremy Corbyn’s promise of a fairer society by coming up with a vision of their own.
That doesn’t have to mean matching all of Labour’s pledges. Tories can be committed to social justice but base their ideas on common sense rather than promis- ing the earth. Conservatives are quite capable of recovering from periods of division and failure and reuniting, particularly if it’s around a new leader.
And there’s plenty of time for a leadership contest, and for Theresa May’s replacement to establish themselves, before the next General Election is due in 2022.
They did it once before when Michael Howard took over as Tory leader from Iain Duncan Smith in 2003.
It followed a long period of bitter in-fighting (largely over Europe) but the party came together and showed discipline when it had to.
Of course, it lost the next election – against Tony Blair’s Labour – but it did so as a credible political force.
Once Brexit is out of the way, the Tories are capable of reuniting again.
Whether they will do so is another matter, but the only thing stopping them is themselves.
And against Corbyn’s Labour, with three years (from March 2019) to develop a coherent policy programme, they’re still capable of winning.
Conservatives are quite capable of recovering from periods of division and failure and reuniting
> Theresa May had a spring in her step at the Birmingham conference despite the shadow of Brexit