Simon Heffer

Not nasty enough

Simon Heffer believes that if the Tories are to have any hope of returning to power, they’ll have to stop tinkering and go for Labour’s jugular

Simon Heffer believes that if the Tories are to have any hope of returning to power, they’ll have to stop tinkering and go for Labour’s jugular

In an impressive observation the other day, a Very Senior Tory Indeed said to me, ‘I don’t buy this argument that governments lose elections rather than oppositions winning them. It’s a cop-out. We have to be better than that.’ With the spasm of activity in the last fortnight, the Conservative party appears to be acting on that view. First, we had Mr Howard making the moral case for low taxation. Now, we have Mr Letwin trying to outline how the moral position might, over six years or so, be reached. It has come not a moment too soon, because the overtaxed natives out there in Middle England are getting restless.

It has to be said, too, that after the prolonged honeymoon which Mr Howard enjoyed following his coronation last November, things were starting to look pretty rum. However intellectually unacceptable Lord Hutton’s report was, the Tory response to it was disastrous and left them, particularly Mr Howard, looking silly. The new Tory machine, praised so highly for its super-effectiveness, looked poor too. Although Mr Howard is to be congratulated on leaving behind the era of spin, the Tories’ media operation has looked inadequate ever since the new leader sacked his press chief, Nick Wood, to the astonishment of lobby correspondents, who universally respected him. Shadow ministers turned up in broadcasting studios on the afternoon the Hutton report appeared, to be asked during questioning why their leader had cancelled all his promised media appearances. Nobody had thought to impart this significant fact to most of them. Then the party that had supported the war on Iraq looked opportunist in seeking to humiliate the Prime Minister over his difficulties with the distinction between ballistic and battlefield weapons.

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