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Diary

Diary

The Polecat deals with his potential expulsion from the Tory party by cultivating his communist plot

19 October 2002

12:00 AM

19 October 2002

12:00 AM

Sunday: Ducked morning service in favour of gardening, but made it to a special evening service to celebrate the Jubilee year and the community of our parish. In the midst of a powerful sermon on how technology has changed village life, the rector clamped his mobile to his ear, yelling, ‘I am in the pulpit. No, another 35 minutes.’ What a communicator. What a cook, too: I was all but trodden under at the post-service reception in the rush for his famous trout-and-leek tart. Despite everything, a church can still be a centre of village life, with the right incumbent.

Monday: Gardening again. Autumn marks that time when guilt over last spring’s jobs undone is set aside to plan for early action next spring. Gardens are like Marxist economies, full of five-year plans and objectives unattained but simply rolled over for another five years.

Tuesday: I slept uneasily and struggled to wake from a nightmare in which I wrote an impassioned letter to the Telegraph: ‘The selection committee at Chingford must surely see that to replace me with a white, middle-class, privately educated, Sandhurst-trained, heterosexual, married army officer with children at private schools will only add to the impression that the party is totally out of touch with modern, cool Britannia.’ It took three cups of strong coffee to settle me down for the drive to Bournemouth. One day at the party conference and one fringe meeting is enough for me these days. I struggled through security to the Tralee hotel for the Telegraph meeting, entitled ‘Is Britain a Free Country?’ Standing room only and, after some lively exchanges, it was back to the conference centre to hear David Davis and David Willetts. Good stuff. Some policies for the party to sell, at last. Despite the echoes of Edwina’s creaking bedsprings, the party faithful are cheering up. Gave seven or eight radio and television interviews, supporting the new policies but warning that chairman Theresa May was wrong to label us the ‘nasty party’. I enjoyed an interview with Nick Robinson who told me that the Tory benches looked out of touch, with hardly a woman MP and not one from the ethnic minorities. ‘Well,’ I replied, ‘I have had seven interviews today. You are my seventh white, middle-aged male interviewer. Is the BBC the nasty broadcasting corporation?’ A pity it was not live. Nick laughed so much they cut it out. Half an hour later my last interviewer of the day was a woman. Drinks at the Royal Bath with Simon Heffer (a glass of wine and a gin and tonic, £7.60), and on to dinner with the Daily Telegraph. I am glad to be driven home.


Wednesday: VAT returns – correspondence – shopping. The conference seems to be going well

Thursday: All the papers have been briefed. I am to be thrown out of the party for being white, male, heterosexual, nasty and old enough to remember when the Tories won elections. I am not surprised. I was warned weeks ago that a bunch of weirdos – some in high office in the party – have been planning a ‘clause-four’-style confrontation to demonstrate that the Conservative party has embraced ‘cool Britannia’ youth, the gay world and ethnic minorities, and rejected Thatcherism, tax cuts, families and tradition. Their ‘clause four’ was for IDS to expel me, split the party and then be replaced by a moderniser. Had I rung Boris to tell him, he would have diagnosed galloping paranoia. I had to wait for ‘The Movement’ to move. Owen Paterson, PPS to IDS, rang: ‘Iain is devastated at all this. He will ring after his speech.’ He did not. Chairman Theresa May refused to kill the story when asked by John Humphrys on Today, so it runs and runs. I draft a letter to the Telegraph exposing The Movement and go to the Lords. My expulsion is raised at the meeting of Tory peers. The chief whip says he would not withdraw the whip. Numerous peers say, ‘If Tebbit goes, I go.’ Two shadow Cabinet members tell me, so would they. Lord Stoddart, expelled from the Labour party for patriotism, and I discuss a new party, ‘The Expellees’. Dined with the chief whip. Home to bed feeling secure. The polecat can still bite.

Friday: Dozens of phone calls from supporters (but not IDS) and the media. I decline to do any radio or television interviews and go back to the garden. Owen Paterson says IDS will ring over the weekend.

Saturday: Chairman May responds to my demands through friendly journalists. In a letter to the Telegraph she says she did not know anything about all this expulsion business, but does not explain or apologise for the briefing by senior party people. I say I am glad that the nastiness is all over. My son and I go shooting. The weather at first is awful, so I load for him. He is well below his usual form. After lunch the sun comes out and he loads for me and I shoot far above my normal standard. Someone pulls William’s leg: ‘I see your father shot better than you today.’ ‘Yes,’ says William. ‘He had a better loader.’ I’m proud of him!

Sunday: A quiet day with the papers. The Telegraph is not bad. The Mail on Sunday is terrific: a great exposZ of ‘The Movement’, naming its leaders as Douglas Smith, who runs ‘C-Change’ (a think-tank set up by former party chairman Archie Norman and Francis Maude), and Mark MacGregor, chief executive of the Conservative party and supporter of Portillo’s leadership bid. Still no phone call from IDS. I am attacked by shadow agriculture secretary Tim Yeo. I suppose I should be angry but I really can’t manage that. Poor Tim. He has had a worse week than I. Remember, he was sacked by John Major for adultery. That really is unfair.


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