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Unquiet nights? The Prime Minister meets the new Leader of the Opposition at a service to commemorate the Battle of Britain (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

After the defeat of the national miners’ strike in 1985, Conservatives were told not to gloat. Willie Whitelaw rejected the advice. He said he was “gloating like hell”. Conservatives are gloating like hell now at the election of Jeremy Corbyn. Short of some catastrophe — nuclear war, incurable pestilence or the melting of both polar ice caps in the space of a week — Mr Corbyn will never be Prime Minister, and until his party changes direction there will probably never be another Labour government. On this point, the gloating should be general and unabashed. All Labour governments are bad. The worst precipitate economic meltdown. The best — among which must be counted Tony Blair’s — still overspend and overborrow, and, as with Iraq, pursue a spectacularly incompetent foreign policy. If there were never another Labour government, Britain would be better off.

Yet every silver lining comes with its cloud, in this case three clouds. Even sympathetic commentators openly worry about the effect on the Conservative party of a monopoly on government. The Conservatives are, as their history shows, by nature an arrogant, lazy and complacent crew. They respond well to a fearsome skipper who whips them into shape. They can sometimes rise to a national crisis. But, otherwise, they prefer perks and patronage to sustained activity. In these matters, David Cameron reflects his party’s instincts all too well. The latest shameless honours list was a taster of things to come. And that was before Corbyn.

A second cloud overshadows the bright, sunlit uplands of Tory triumph. The prospect of ceding power to Labour kept Conservative egos in check. The latest biography of David Cameron, by Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon, describes an intra-Bullingdon spat in which the Prime Minister tells Boris Johnson to “f***ing shut up” or they’ll lose the election. The discipline which that threat imposed will disappear once Labour is unelectable. It spells unquiet nights for the party leadership, since Mr Cameron has an overall majority of only 12.

This second cloud, however, is not un-lined. Parties certainly do need discipline. But they also need energy. Political energy is manifested in a constant flow of ideas, connected argument, collective enthusiasm, individual commitment, and, in the end, a high level of moral courage. Energy of this kind generates mass membership of the sort that the Conservative party had under Margaret Thatcher but which it lacks under Cameron.

A process of colonisation and sterilisation over the last ten years has occurred. This is essentially what the Tory modernisers wanted. Modernisation has not won an election. It failed to secure a majority for the Party in 2010. And the surprise success this year was the result of discarding its tiresome shibboleths and fighting an old-fashioned, negative and really quite nasty anti-socialist (and anti-Scottish) campaign. But modernisation inside the party, in the sense of uprooting old loyalties and importing socially liberal cosmopolitan values, has proceeded apace. The rise of UKIP was one result. The systematic exclusion of conservative-minded people from all positions of influence was another.

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