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"Modern Conservatives" is how the Conservative Party would like you to refer to them in the upcoming British election; just like New Labour, they'll continually repeat this name themselves until we get the message and adopt it ourselves. But it's far from clear how real or sustainable their new identity is.

At the moment, the Tories look worryingly like a PR organization with a political party attached to it, rather than the reverse. Their largest strategic decision, so large we can no longer see it, has been to adopt the language and the forms of New Labour; nothing succeeds like success, after all. New Labour's central insight was that the description of social and political reality matters much more than the reality itself, and they have succeeded in transforming the way we talk about politics so much that the Tories have had to do anything they can to avoid looking like the "Old Tories", because Britain had moved beyond the "old" parties. And all this despite how absurdly easy it would be to use traditional Tory language to describe our current fiscal crisis.

But PR organizations masquerading as parties can have great success at actually changing things, as New Labour also taught us. Modern Conservatism will be, I suspect, skin deep. The decisions facing us in the next ten years are of such moment that no-one will be allowed the luxury of defining themselves with pretty phrases, because they will be defined by their actions. We would be better served by two parties who were honest about their own identities and their plans, rather than competing to mouth what they often mistakenly and patronizingly believe the public wants to hear. Such parties would also find it easier, when it came to it, to actually rule.

BrevityQuest10.

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