Unlike many who have urged modernisation upon the Tory Party, I also have a very high regard for Tebbit. As one of the architects of the Thatcher revolution, he was responsible for the trade union reforms which enabled Britain to recover economically. As party chairman in 1987, he steered the Tories to a famous victory, and, had he not retired from the Cabinet thereafter to spend more time with his wife - paralysed in the Brighton bomb - he would have been a serious contender to succeed Margaret Thatcher. Lord Tebbit is not a discredited fossil from an era of defeat - a Benn or a Scargill - but the embodiment of the Conservatives' glory days.
One of the daftest suggestions ever made by the uber-modernisers was floated in 2002 at the Tory conference in Bournemouth: namely that Tebbit should be expelled from the party’s ranks. Thankfully, this callow attempt to manufacture a Clause 4 moment for the Conservative mods did not get off the ground. Unlike the ur-mods, Dave has consulted the great man frequently and Tebbit has returned the compliment by acknowledging that Cameron is a “remarkable political animal", commending the young leader’s focus on the environment and world poverty, and declaring that he "is right to see that the Conservative Party has to change. Margaret Thatcher saw that, too."
That said, Tebbit has often teased Cameron, and enjoyed doing so. His remarks today, however, are more than teasing. They are the voice of righteous indignation and show that he is still in touch with the pulse of the nation. In this instance, Tebbit is speaking not for Thatcherism, or “the Right”, or a disgruntled faction, but the disgusted electorate as a whole. He stopped short of urging the public to vote for a specific party and was careful to make clear that he did not want anyone to back the loathsome BNP.
Yes, His Lordship was being provocative but he knew what he was doing, too - which was to express the anger of the whole country at the disgraced political class. I bet Mr Cameron is furious with him this morning and tempted to exact revenge. He would be wise to leave well alone. Like every party leader, Dave has other, much more pressing things to be getting on with. Norman may be out of order, but he also happens to be right.