Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography indicates that the internal struggles within the Conservative Party in the 1980s were as intense as today’s struggles within the Republican Party. Many Tories in Thatcher’s time—just like many Republicans now—were allegedly for smaller government, but they showed little interest in the tough fight needed to actually make it happen. Nearly every Republican in Congress today claims that he or she is for cutting spending and repealing Obamacare, but many of them seem to shy away when they meet strong resistance from the other side.
Here’s what the Iron Lady said about that type of politician:
[There was] a political type that had dominated and, in my view, damaged the post-war Tory Party. I call such figures “the false squire.” They have all the outward show of a John Bull—ruddy face, white hair, bluff manner—but inwardly they are political calculators who see the task of Conservatives as one of retreating gracefully before the Left’s inevitable advance. Retreat as a tactic is sometimes necessary; retreat as a settled policy eats at the soul. In order to justify the series of defeats that this philosophy entails, the false squire has to persuade rank and file Conservatives that advance is impossible. His whole political life would, after all, be a gigantic mistake if a policy of positive Tory reform turned out to be both practical and popular. Hence the passionate and obstinate resistance mounted by the “wets” to the fiscal, economic, and trade union reforms of the early 1980s. These reforms had either to fail or be stopped. For if they succeeded, a whole generation of Tory leaders had despaired unnecessarily.