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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars political history and comment at its brighest and best
This is a splendid book. Journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft explores the reasons behind the slow decline of the British Conservative (Tory) Party, once the undisputed mistress of the British political scene, now reduced to a rump of quarrelsome, factional schisms, disunited, directionless and with no sense of being able to return to power. It's a wonderful read and I...
Published on 8 Aug 2005 by Dr. Sn Cottam

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do what it says on the tin
This disappointing, ill-focused sprawl of a book does not live up to its title. Irrespective of its author's frequently one-sided views, a book called 'The Strange Death of Tory England' (as opposed to 'of the Tory Party') should be about England, and how English people played their part in the downfall of Major. Instead, Wheatcroft makes the fatal mistake of assuming...
Published on 27 Dec 2007 by H. Cowie


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25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars political history and comment at its brighest and best, 8 Aug 2005
By 
Dr. Sn Cottam "Steve the medic" (Preston, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a splendid book. Journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft explores the reasons behind the slow decline of the British Conservative (Tory) Party, once the undisputed mistress of the British political scene, now reduced to a rump of quarrelsome, factional schisms, disunited, directionless and with no sense of being able to return to power. It's a wonderful read and I recommend that anyone interested in politics, contemporary history or ploitical thought packs this thoroughly enjoyable tale of a fall into the political wilderness in their holiday reading.
The tale is told by a canter through Tory party history; although the book was completed prior to Tony Blair's historic third Labour Party win in May 2005, the writing is clearly on the wall. Wheatcroft ably describes the twists and turns of policy and personalities in recent British history and his evocation of ideas and individuals, often with a few carefully chosen sentences, is superb. He (correctly in my view) identifies and dissects the reasons for the fall of the Tory party - disunity, the stealing of Thatcherism's thunder by Tony Blair and above all a total change in social outlook and mores to which point a recent Daily Telegraph correspondent could state 'we are all social democrats now'.
And the tale is told with admirable clarity and a wonderful acerbic humour. Here is Geoffrey on the Referendum Party - 'in many ways it was a risible affair, noisily supported at one glitzy gathering after another by such notabilities as...and altogether a fine cross-section of rich white trash; there has been nothing like it since the flapper in 'Vile Bodies' complained, 'The Independent Labour Party? Why haven't I been asked?'. And on the hapless William Hague - 'In an age of appearances his own did not help, part foetus and part death's head, apparantly without having gone through the usual intervening phase of human life'. And on the Countryside Alliance march - 'To watch that parade of the rural classes and what was left of the landed gentry was like peering at something from a nature reserve'. His comment on puritanism that 'whether taking religious or secular form, Puritanism is a minority taste; most people want to build the just city less than they want their cakes and ale, particularly the ale' deserves an immediate place in any book of political quotations.
Of course there must be quibbles despite Geoffrey's generally sound analysis and his acute judgement. Although most of his glancing sideswipes hit their target, some are heavily off beam. To describe the liberation of a friendly, harmless small nation from the clutches of a psychopathic dictator and his appalling bullies as 'raising more questions than it answered' (his comments on the First Gulf War) raises some difficult moral and political questions of its own. And Geoffrey's opposition to ID cards seems more rooted in a 1950s schoolboy libertarianism than a recognition of current world realities. But on the main issues, Geoffrey is sharp and sound and even if one disagrees with him, there's plenty to engage with and mull over.
Perhaps the book's one great weakness is that Geoffrey can never quite pin down the essential nature or philosophy of the Tory Party. To many of us outside, it represents little more than an attempt to conserve the lifestyle and views of a priviliged and affluent minority, disguised as a political party. Once this is appreciated, the decline and fall becomes inevitable. And the party seems utterly unable to learn. Just a couple of weeks ago a group of Right wing Tory MPs, no doubt to the delight of the party's incrasingly elderly and reactionary membership, launched a platform for a new direction based on an American style religious conservatism that has not, nor ever has had, any market in Britain. A suitable subtitle for this acute and worthwhile read (and the Tories themselves) would have been 'They just don't get it'.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, incisive and totally wrong, 16 Jun 2009
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This review is from: The Strange Death of Tory England (Paperback)
Great book, full of wit and insight into how it went so wrong for the Tories. Unfortunately, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, the main plank of the book - that the Tories are finished - proved premature; strange that the author came to this conclusion, as there are frequent references to Labour returning from the dead after 1983. Wheatcroft seems to think that Blair killed the Tories, but failed to look at what would happen post 2005 - Blair discredited and Brown a dismal failure. Read it for the wit, but not the crystal-ball gazing.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do what it says on the tin, 27 Dec 2007
By 
H. Cowie - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This disappointing, ill-focused sprawl of a book does not live up to its title. Irrespective of its author's frequently one-sided views, a book called 'The Strange Death of Tory England' (as opposed to 'of the Tory Party') should be about England, and how English people played their part in the downfall of Major. Instead, Wheatcroft makes the fatal mistake of assuming that history is nothing more than the biographies of famous men; he concentrates on the experiences and views of only a few people at the top of the party (basically, his mates at the time), when it would have been so much more interesting and profitable to examine the views and values of the electorate, who, in the final analysis, are the only people in a democracy who can cause the 'strange death' of any political party or ideology. Worst of all, however, the book is almost entirely journalistic descriptiveness, despite the in-depth analysis promised by the title, which as a reader I really missed. Wheatcroft only starts analysis of the events he describes on page 269 out of 285, and even then, it is shallow and highly subjective. If you want to read a book that should be more accurately called 'The Conservative Party in the late 20th century from the viewpoint of one sympathetic journalist' then you'll like it. But for such a promising title, 'The Strange Death of Tory England' offers little more insight than if you had followed the events described in the newspapers at the time. Wheatcroft adds very little value here, and his book is best avoided.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous but insightful., 9 April 2008
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This review is from: The Strange Death of Tory England (Paperback)
For most of the twentieth century the Conservative Party dominated British politics, however by the end they had been routed at the polls and appeared to have nowhere to go. Geoffrey Wheatcroft's book explains in a thought provoking but sometimes humourous way how the Conservative Party lost its way. His main conclusion seems to be that the era of Conservative dominance from 1979-1997 was in fact bad for the Conservative Party as a whole as it gained a reputation for being the nasty party due to its introduction of necessary but unpopular free market reforms. This meant that the old Tory One-Nation Conservatism which had been successful in the past was displaced by free-market radicalism which became increasingly unpopular and ultimately led to defeat in 1997 and also the Party becoming controlled by free market radicals who were dogamtic in their belief. All in all this is a very good book.
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18 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading, but flawed., 24 Jun 2005
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The first thing to say about this book is that it is written by a conservative, so for those not of this political persuasion, parts of the book, such as the general praise of Thatcher will be hard to swallow. But I would still recommend it to all as an excellent study of the Tory party from within. It is written with real wit and carefull analysis. What's better, is that once you pick it up, you can't put it back down, and this is very much to the authors credit.
The attack on the Fogey Right and their obsession with Europe is particularly vehement, and fair. This section of the party which seems to have been in control for some time has repelled more voters than it has attracted, and for the forseeable future, this is something that does not look like it will be remedied. The author's lament of the fall of the old patrician spirit of the Tory party is just, and in many ways, is also the root of the problem. His demonstrates this well through examining the history of the Tory party. Truthfully, the party today appears to be in a wilderness similar in form to that it sruggled under against the power of the Whig party in the 18th century.
However, some of his analysis of some issues seems too one-sided, and his Conservative views overcome his judgement. This is lacking particularly in his section outlining the problems the Tory party had in The Troubles, in Scotland, the anti-Thatcher crusade of the 'intellectual left' and much of his narrative on Thatcher and her acheivements. With regards The Troubles, he rightly condemns Seinn Fein, but leaves it at that. He doesn't really expand on the problems the unionists created, or the frequently good causes fought by moderate elements such as the SDLP. He also fails to condemn Thatcher's policy of fighting fire with fire against the IRA. With regards Scotland, he rejects out of hand Scotland's demand for devolution as being economically unviable, willfully ignoring the fact that Scotland's institutions required more governance than one day a month in parliament - but also by nasty coincidence displaying the same contemptuous attitude which caused the Scots to desert the Tories in the first place. With regards the intellectual left, he takes a long time to take a very easy pot-shot at a collection of people who he holds partly responsible for the downfall of Thatcher. The fact is, the Intellectual left are a parody of themselves, and have taken pot shots at prime ministers before and after Thatcher, Tory and non-Tory anyway. Thatcher just made it easier for people to dislike her because of her bullying and aggressive manner. With regards Thatcher herself, the author is obviously enraptured by her, and given that so much of the problem the Tories have to today is because of what she did and the way she did it, this critical link is almost fatally weakened. Thatcher repelled as much as she attracted when in power, and as time has worn on, the admirers are shrinking in number. She is a large part of the problem, and needs more objective analysis than this book gives her.
Otherwise it is an excellent read, and to anyone who wants to know how to fix the Tory party, this book is as good as any as a place to start. Highly recommended.
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