Alex Massie

The Tory Right: Disgruntled, Neutered & Still There

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Backbenchers are invariably a motley crew. That's the nature of the beast. And I think it's right that backbenchers have a proper forum for airing their passions, concerns and grievances. Which is why I also think it right that the 1922 Committee has survived the Tory leadership's misguided attempt to all but abolish it.

Nevertheless, the list of candidates for the Committee's Executive Iain Dale published was interesting and instructive. A dozen of the new intake stood for election and there were also a dozen old lags putting themselves forward. Among that latter grouping: Peter Bottomley, Philip Davies, Bernard Jenkin, David Amess and David Tredinnick.

Well, for diverse reasons of various degrees of quackery, knavery, sleaze, malevolence or simple idiocy there you have, I would hazard, some of the reasons why the Tory party lost three elections on the trot and why none of them were even closely run things.

Sure, backbenchers and junior ministers matter less than the frontline heavy-hitters but the Tory party's image problem was earned by the parliamentary party as a whole and the image problem was not simply a BBC or Guardian creation. Many voters really didn't like these people and they had good reasons not to. The image problem was merely the front for the substance problem and, golly, it comes as a bit of a depressing surprise to be reminded that a good number of these folk* are still in parliament...

Nevertheless while it's right for backbenchers to assert their prerogatives and right too that Cameron should tend his caucus garden more attentively it's also the case that many of the rest of us may be thankful that, while complicating the business of government no end, the realities of partnership government have deprived the worst** elements of the Conservative party from exercising undue influence upon government policy.

*There are plenty of ghastly folk on the Labour backbenches too. But that's a different matter.

**That's my definition of worst, of course. Yours may differ and you may think it's actually the other way round. Each to their own.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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