My usual nerdish interest in British politics has been on the back-burner for a week or two, maybe because events here in the States have just been so much more compelling. But life in the old country goes on. The Labour party conference is its usual unedifying self. Perhaps I'll summon up the enthusiasm to write about it some time (but then again, maybe not). The travails of the Tory party are actually a lot more fascinating.
Two developments come to the fore. The first is yesterday's decision by the party to stick to the existing oh-my-God-it's-IDS rules for electing a leader. What the final impact of this will be is up in the air, but it seems a fair bet that the next leader will more likely be from the party's right wing.
The other development is a spate of rather interesting polls which are summed up in this excellent posting by Andrew Wells. Briefly, the conclusion is that the British public sees itself as smack bang in the centre ground of politics, with Labour and the LibDems on the left and the Tories on the right. What must be worrying for Central Office is that the Tories are already seen as being far more to the right of the general public than Labour or the LibDems are to the left. Positioning themselves even further rightwards under a future leader seems a highly risky strategy.
In the 1980s, there were many in the Labour party who believed that the party's mistake was not to be left-wing enough. Whatever you think of the merits of far-left politics, electorally the centrists proved more successful.
Are the Tories destined to make the same mistake? Quite possibly. Of course, politics should not merely about following the public mood. A lot of it should be about leading the public in a chosen direction. But given that the Tories have got an uphill struggle to move the public anywhere near where they are already positioned, it would be a strange decision for them to willingly move the finishing post even further away.