Before the election in 2005, the magnificently grand Polly Toynbee made a generous offer to Guardian readers reluctant to vote for Tony Blair after Iraq. ‘There is much to be proud of in voting Labour — but I have a free offer for the reluctant. On my desk is a basket of wooden nose-pegs marked "Labour". Any reluctant voter can have one of these to wear to the polls; apply here now,’ she said irresistibly. I seem to recall there was a bit of a run on them.
I wonder whether the point has come for some obliging Tory journalist to make the same offer to disgruntled Conservatives. There is, of course, much for them to hold their noses about, notwithstanding progress on welfare reform. In no particular order there is:
1). The sacking of Michael Gove, one of the few radical reformists in government, a man who, correctly, saw education as a means to close the class divide and increase social mobility.
2). Gay marriage. Did anyone, reading the last Tory manifesto get from it that the PM would be reworking the most basic social institution of all? Plainly, not even his mother expected it.
3). The Strategic Defence Review, 2010, the one that cut the regular army from 102,000 in 2010 to 82,000 in 2018, while reservists go up to 30,000. This was described by one retired general the other week at a meeting I attended as indication the government didn’t know what it was doing on defence. Passing the buck to the Territorial Army, which simply isn’t equipped for the job, suggests that Philip Hammond, now Foreign Secretary, didn’t really understand his brief.
These are just to be getting on with; Tory voters will have their own little list. But I think the nose-pegs would come in handy. Unlike would-be Labour voters in 2005, Conservatives with a bad smell do have somewhere to go — Ukip — though the party will no doubt be working its hardest on the ‘Vote Nigel, Get Ed’ message. As I say, there is work on the peg front to be done by some Tory pundit, though it may be hard to find someone quite as grand as Polly. Perhaps Charles Moore should volunteer to distribute what could be industrial quantities on request.