An article in the Washington Post by E.J. Dionne Jr. , a liberal in the American sense of the word, has raised a number of issues about the current state of conservatism. He correctly points out that conservatism is incredibly important for democracy, and conservatives have made vital contributions for three reasons. I suggest you read his article here for more.
Of course he is right and it is the beauty of our democracy that both the left and right can be represented in our Parliament.
But Dionne goes on to say that the current state of conservatism is dangerous. The Republicans are currently the party of no and are blocking almost everything they can, so much so, that the Democrats have used a Budget Resolution vote, normally used to pass cost saving bills. This say no at any cost oppositional politics is not beneficial to anyone.
Australia is in a similar position at the moment. Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is up against a hostile Senate and a negative Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. One example is the Emissions Trading Scheme policy that the senate has voted down twice in Australia. Abbott gained the Leadership after a Leadership spill over the second ETS vote, ending the then Coalition policy.
For a while, the Coalition didn’t have a clear policy, but said it would vote against any ALP bill presented. It wasn’t until 2-3 months later that the Coalition came out with an environmental policy, but the policy, with Abbott’s admission, “won’t have every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed.” So the Coalition are effectively fighting Labor, but without anything as an alternative.
All-in-all, UK Conservatives aren’t nearly as bad, although, I have a feeling that it may be due to the Westminster system more than anything else. With an unelected upper-house, that rarely other than a few ping-pong bills, really causes a stir. Oppositions will therefore vote against the Government, without fear of being painted too-badly as the bill will generally get through given sufficient time. Although Cameron’s recent interview in regards to Conservative voting policy towards gay rights may prove to be an issue.
I’m not sure what can be done about this as it is a trap that parties fall into whenever they are in opposition to look strong and appease their base. Don’t get me wrong, liberal and progressive style parties often make a similar partisan decision when they are in opposition but Conservatives, as an obvious rule, don’t want to modernise and that includes their own party. Change is difficult and only elections can make an immediate change, but it is important that the ying and yang of politics is restored.