Welcome to all new faces and welcome back to all those familiar. You?ll undoubtedly be aware that the society has a new committee; you might not have noticed that, outside the WC1 bubble, the country has a new prime minister, too. Theresa May and her government face the unenviable task of negotiating the terms of our post-Brexit relationship with the EU, most of whose leaders will not keen to do Britain any favours. Domestically, the prime minister faces conflict with the Lords and within her own party over her plan to build new grammar schools, the most controversial of a series of policies announced in part, at least, to differentiate herself from her predecessor. David Cameron’s ministry was socially and economically liberal; hers is a throwback to a strand of Conservatism not seen since before Thatcher, one that is more willing to use state intervention to achieve social and economic goals.
While the new prime minister will encounter resistance from other European leaders, from inside the Conservative ranks and from the second chamber, any opposition from across the floor will be limp. Jeremy Corbyn’s second crushing leadership-election victory in just over 12 months confirms that the party of Tony Blair no longer has any pretensions to power: his left-wing economics and, in particular, his soft attitude to defence will only further alienate voters in constituencies that voted for New Labour in 1997 and 2001. In opinion polls, his party trails the Conservatives by over 10 points; his personal approval ratings are catastrophic. This is good news for Mrs May in the short term, but weak opposition induces complacency in the long term. It is a tragedy for the country, which needs a government that is held to account.
The UCL Conservative Society will do its bit to compensate for Labour’s abdication of responsibility. Once a week over the coming academic year, our committee members will offer their thoughts on the new government’s progress, as well as on other political topics. I’ll more likely be complaining about French red tape or the Germans’ absolute insistence on waiting for the green man before crossing the road. I’ll also be continuing the policy of my predecessor, Matthew Schlachter, of inviting esteemed voices from outside the society to contribute. Do get in touch with your thoughts in the comments section below, and don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you’d like to write an article yourself at some point.