Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Strange Death of Tory England

Has the most successful species in British political history finally become extinct? The Conservative party dominated British politics for 120 years from Disraeli's victory in 1874, culminating in an unprecedented eighteen-year spell in government after 1979. And yet at the very end of the century the Tories imploded so disastrously as to suggest the party might be doomed to follow the Liberals into oblivion. Geoffrey Wheatcroft has observed this extraordinary drama at close hand, interviewing all the key players on (and, more often, off) the record: from spirited exchanges with Margaret Thatcher to unprintable asides from Alan Clark. In this provocative and often acerbically funny book he first examines how the Tories came to enjoy their unlikely triumph: what was meant to be the century of the common man', with the unstoppable ascent of Labour, turned out to be the era of the Conservative, as the Tories reinvented themselves over and over again, not least entirely changing the party's class character. The Strange Death of Tory England demonstrates brilliantly how two profound truths explain the Conservatives' decline: that the Right had won politically, but the Left had won culturally; and that it was possible to win the battle, but lose the argument.