They are Achilles and Patroclus. They are David and Jonathan. They are Wallace and Gromit. Not since the emergence of the youthful Blair and Brown has there been a pair of politicians who have been so evidently close in ideology and outlook, and who have so captivated spectators by their general voter-friendliness. In making George Osborne shadow Chancellor, and appointing David Cameron to be shadow Education Secretary, Michael Howard has naturally exposed these two young men to the epileptic jealousy of their elders. Among the punditocracy, and among their colleagues on the Tory benches, there will now be plenty of people who are willing them to fail; and the very intensity of the resentment of this pair is of course a cause for hope, because it is an axiom of politics that people can only be bothered to muster jealousy and resentment of things that are good and new and likely to work.
This magazine, or rather its political editor Peter Oborne, coined the phrase ‘Notting Hill Tories’, and we therefore view their continued success with a vague proprietorial pride. It is supposed to be a mark against the pair, and their wide circle of allies, that they are young, or youngish, media-savvy, metropolitan, and broadly think it is time that the Tory party forgot some of the confrontational language of Thatcherism. In other words they are suspected of being ‘wet’, to use the old term. In fact, they are probably very far from being wet, at least on the central question of economic management. But in so far as being a Notting Hill Tory means being progressive, or unblinkered, or pragmatic, the badge will be of huge assistance to both men in doing what they have to do.
It was an almost unnoticed feature of the last election that the Tories’ proposals for education were the most radical and interesting for the last 50 years.