If you only have time to read one full length newspaper piece today, read this one by George Bridges, the former backroom Tory guru and CPS director. It is a brilliant, scathing meditation on the damage caused by the professionalisation of party politics. And, of course, it is a humble confession.
If I had to pick one quotation from it (and there are many possible choices), it would be this one:
‘Opinion research is critical in politics, but only if it is used to tell a politician how to communicate, not what to believe – a point Lynton Crosby, the election guru who will advise the Tories’ 2015 campaign, repeats ad infinitum. It provides a map and a compass, but the leader must set the direction.’
This, it seems to me, gets to the heart of the matter at Westminster. As Bridges concludes, ‘The mindset of political strategy is now poisoning the well of politics.’
Bridges’ article prompts serious doubts about the sincerity of the Tories’ modernisation project. This is why I think it would be sensible for George Osborne and others to start using words like ‘principle’ and ‘conviction’ when talking about gay marriage and fiscal discipline, as Ed Miliband has begun to in a different context. Politics is crying out to be re-moralised.