Alex Massie

The View from Beyond Westminster Bridge

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Since I wrote this, I'm hardly likely to disagree with the thrust of Matthew Parris's column in The Times today, am I?

I distrust clichés such as “Westminster village”, but there are occasions when they fit. Within the space of an afternoon a relatively small number of people - MPs, broadcasters, journalists, party hacks - gathered within a relatively confined space and, communicating mostly with each other, worked each other up into a clear, sharp and settled judgment on the question of the hour. By now it was almost unanimous. The judgment was conveyed electronically to the offices of the national press, bouncing back at Westminster in the form of vituperative editorials and opinion columns by dawn the next morning.

Thus, by echo, a single opinion reinforced and magnified itself. David Davis had acted eccentrically. He had acted independently. He had acted dangerously, self-interestedly. He had been profoundly unhelpful to his Tory team.

None of these accusations do I dispute. Had I been one of Mr Davis's confidants, I would have tried hard to dissuade him from taking a risky and exotic stand that makes doubtful constitutional sense, and can alter little about his country except the way that it sees him.

But there is one big assumption that I do dispute - that the electorate will not be impressed. Theirs is a voice that was not heard, asked for or even mentioned as Westminster, Broadcasting House and Fleet Street whipped themselves into a frenzy on Thursday afternoon.

Although I wouldn't bet on it, this Tory maverick may touch a surprisingly popular nerve.

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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