There have been some signs of revival of the British Conservatives at the recent Conservatives Party Conference. And even hopes were expressed that they will “win” the next elections. But should they hurry?
It is true that Michael Howard started groping in the right direction. And that this groping in the right direction has given those attending the conference hopes of Conservative Revival. And the announcement by Michael Howard that he wants his government to be “transparent and accountable” was welcome contrast to the Blair style of government based on his personal beliefs, “political instincts” and “spin”.
But are proclamations of intent to be “transparent and accountable” enough?
To make central and local government in Britain “transparent and accountable” is a big challenge, and, if the Conservatives are elected in some seven months from now, they will be elected with a small majority, will not be adequately prepared for the task of making government “transparent and accountable”, and will inherit from the Blair government all its mess.
Under such circumstances they will have no choice but to react to events beyond their control, to deal with which they are unprepared, and the task of making government “transparent and accountable” will remain a good intention. And towards the end of their term they will be in no better position than they were in 1997 — a bunch of self‐discredited politicians.
But, if they do not hurry to get elected, and leave Tony Blair to carry on with reduced majority, then they will be in a position to turn their dream of “transparent and accountable” government into reality.
Being in opposition, they will have more time to develop their ideas into concrete plans. They could implement these ideas on a local scale in one of the Conservative controlled councils. And at the same time they could establish their reputation with the electorate by providing honest, competent and effective opposition to the Blair government.
By 2009 they will be a party ready for government, while the Blair government will continue to lose trust with the electorate. As a result, the Conservatives will be elected with a substantial majority. And, as their ideas of “transparent and accountable” government will be developed and tested on local government experiments, they will be able to implement these ideas in central and local government countrywide.
There is some wisdom in learning to crawl before trying to walk, and learning to walk before trying to run.
But, what if Tony Blair, in stead of continuing to lose trust, makes his government “transparent and accountable”?
Then, let him carry on with his government.
The purpose of “transparency and accountability” in government is to ensure that government is competent and honest. And, as long as government is competent and honest, it does not matter who happens to be in such government — Michael Howard, Tony Blair, or a slot machine.