I never really agreed with the central-thesis of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — that ‘42’ is the answer to life, the universe and everything. I have no great animus against the number — it does its job, filling that yawning gap between 41 and 43. But I had never thought it actually-special until the beginning of this week. That’s when I read that the Conservative Party was 17 points ahead in the latest opinion polls, on 42 per cent. A remarkable figure.
I suppose you can argue that it says more about the current state of the Labour party than it does about Theresa May’s stewardship of the country. My old party is led by a convocation of absolutist imbeciles opposed to not only the UK and what it represents, but to most of the people living in it as well. Its leader supports Palestinian terrorists and the dynastic police state of Cuba and has spoken warmly at IRA commemorations for dead murderers. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, called for ‘brave’ IRA members to be honoured by our government — and when forced to disown this odious remark, lied and said it was because he was urging the IRA to lay down their weapons. He wasn’t — he actually opposed the peace-process negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement. A major backer of Jeremy Corbyn, Andrew Murray, has confirmed his solidarity with North Korea — great news for young Kim, I-reckon, and perhaps for all of us.
And when these cast-iron idiots shut up, there are always those lard mountains of metropolitan hypocrisy Diane Abbott and Emily Thornberry to remind us all that-McDonnell and Corbyn are not alone in being able to estrange-voters the length and breadth of this country.
The actual popular support for Labour is probably much lower than 26 per cent, given that the pollsters now shove ‘don’t knows’ into whatever party they last voted for, which seems to me highly dubious. But hell, given this, the Labour vote could conceivably be in the teens. And still too high.
But whatever, that 42 per cent is a triumph for Theresa May. She presides over a party which is itself horribly split over whether we should have a hard, thrusting Brexit, or one which is entirely flaccid and remains dormant behind its fly buttons. It is split, too, over grammar schools and the more general issue of selection in education. All the more commendable, then, that May should have had the courage of her convictions to raise the matter, given that her government has a thinnish majority. But then, she has shown a certain ruthlessness and single-mindedness in most of what she has done since achieving high office at a time of, frankly, chaos and division. The ghost of Cameron was banished very quickly indeed.
The charges against the woman are both personal and political and a combination of the two. First, that she is the Daily Mail made flesh and follows an agenda laid down by its editor, Paul Dacre. This is regarded as a Bad Thing, leaving her open to the charge not merely of poujadist populism but also of being in the pockets of the ghastly media, or part of it. It is true that there are plenty of links between May’s office and the Mail — but then so should there be, you might argue, the Daily Mail being widely read and influential. But the issue of-immigration aside, she does not seem to me terribly Dacreist. Both of her speeches — upon taking office and also at the Conservative conference last week — struck me as being gently Blue Labour in tone and content.
Rod Liddle and Nick Cohen debate Theresa May's merits
‘If you are a citizen of the world, then you are a citizen of nowhere’ is almost a Blue Labour maxim, implying the crucial nature of nationhood, history and tradition. It also annoyed a bunch of half-baked academics who accused the woman of reneging on ‘Enlightenment Values’, whatever they might be. Good. The more academics she annoys, the better. She can see beyond them to the vast swaths of voters north of the Severn-Trent — socially conservative, mildly patriotic, hard-working and aspirational. The people who gave Margaret Thatcher 11 years in power. And yet she is also instinctively far more sympathetic to this tranche of the country than was Thatcher, who did not regularly divest herself of views about how to enable greater social mobility and press the cause of government intervention.
The second accusation is that while the stuff she says is often good, the action which follows is frequently ineffectual.-Critics point to her haplessness at controlling immigration while Home Secretary: sure. To that charge we can only wait and see. I am certainly not convinced by the fatuous plan to force companies to list the-numbers of foreign workers they employ (and then not publish the figures — so what’s the point?) This seems to me a misguided sop, if a sop can be misguided, to what she perceives as anti-immigrant sentiment. But as I have said before, anti-immigrant sentiment is not at large among the British public. There is just anti-immigration sentiment, which is a very different thing. People do not hate immigrants, or wish to see them persecuted. They simply wish to stop the uncontrolled numbers flooding in. Theresa May seems to have swallowed the leftist propaganda which insists that people who are opposed to immigration hate immigrants — much as David Cameron did when he announced benefit restrictions on EU migrant workers. Beside the point and unfair, I would argue.
There is also the suggestion that she is boring. Like ‘low-fat yoghurt’, as one columnist commented derisively. Activia, I suppose, or something. I would not quibble too much with this analysis — except to say that in a time of palpable political derangement across three of our major parties, an-Activia is rather useful for steadying the gut, no?
This article first appeared in this week's Spectator magazine