EDITORIAL: Tory Party needs to reinvent itself

At the time of going to press, the outcome of the confidence vote in Iain Duncan Smith's leadership of the Conservative Party is not known, but it would take an incredible turnaround for IDS to emerge with a workable renewed mandate.

The final days of his spell as leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition have been painful for party members, humiliating for his close team and exciting for the journalists who write about them.

For the long-term reputation of the institution once considered the natural party of government, they have been devastating. It is hard to conceive of the Tories as the natural party of anything at the moment, save perhaps back-stabbing, or farce.

It cannot be the case that the party is such a basket case it is simply beyond PR redemption. If that were ever true of a political force, Labour in the early 1980s would fit the bill. But in that instance, a turnaround was established, and it was done on principles then commonplace in the business world, but unheard of in the ideological environs of SW1.

Adherence to communications discipline, the sublimation of deep-held views to the greater good of winning power, and engineering a compelling story that can be repeated ad infinitum to the media are the prerequisites for this sort of turnaround in public opinion.

At the moment, the Conservative Party is showing none of them. But then, Michael Foot's Labour showed none of these qualities. And in barely more than a decade - under the guidance of a group of people led by Peter Mandelson, who are nowadays scorned, but in technical craft are the best in a generation - it became the unstoppable electoral force it has remained to this day.

The Tories are still waiting for their Mandelson.

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