But if there's one single thing the Conservative Party's needed for, it's as an antidote to that loss of confidence. The Tories should be the vote of confidence: they should speak, unashamedly, for an optimistic Britain at ease with its past, with its culture, with its unequalled contribution to the modern world.
They should argue that what's in desperate need of "modernisation" are defeatist 1970s theories about the inevitability of European integration, the moral superiority of transnational institutions, and the mostly harmful state usurpation of the family.
Of course, the one area where the Left has succeeded magnificently has been in the accumulation of power, but what’s it all for ? Tony Blair has had three landslides in a row, all the time claiming to want to push through an agenda of public sector reform, but where is it ? And, no, throwing money at something doesn’t count as reform. Consider the question of education: we have school vouchers, while the Left’s idea of a bold reform is electronic registers. Remind me again who’s mired in nostalgia ?
The Left’s ideological exhaustion means they can offer Britain nothing more than an absurd mixture of authoritarianism and anti-establishment rhetoric. All they’re really sure about is that the Right is evil. Really evil. Evil like you wouldn’t believe. It’s all they have left.
That’s what’s really wrong with Clarke. To accept the meme that Clarke has some great appeal to the public is to implicitly accept the Left’s charge that Conservatives are, by definition, evil so that only a man who everyone knows is not really a Conservative can get elected. It’s no surprise that Clarke opposed the Iraq war – in foreign policy as in domestic policy, this is a man who worships the idea of stability. Just like Tony Blair’s never-quite-started public sector reform, Clarke offers everything the same as now, but slightly different. Clarke would cast away the greatest advantage of Conservatism – that it works – in favour of…well, nothing. If the public wants a Big Government party, they’ll vote Labour, but a Clarke-led party could offer nothing else: no vision, no ideas, no beliefs. Clarke’s whole philosophy is merely to follow Labour around hoping both that they’ll self-destruct and that when it does the public will turn to him out of sheer exasperation. Conservatives should aim higher.