The last thing we need now is a Tory recovery. Proper conservatives should dread such a thing as much as Labour’s serious faction dreaded victory in the March 1983 Darlington by-election. They longed for the most crushing defeat possible, because it would have provided the pretext for a well-planned putsch against the doomed romantic party leader Michael Foot, chosen in an emotional spasm in 1980.
Britain’s pre-eminent conservative philosopher is rather muddy. I’ve seen him in London, tidy in yellow corduroy. In Wiltshire Roger Scruton is green and brown. Sundey Hill Farm, where he lives with his wife and their two young children, is a ‘rural consultancy’, a ‘meta-farm’ whose services include ‘log-cutting’ and ‘logic-chopping’. Scruton complains that he is too busy with the mental to do much manual labour, but this doesn’t stop him looking as though he’s been wrestling with a hedge.
When the remaining flotsam of 20 or so Conservative MPs wash up on dry land after the next general election, they may do well to consider why it was that during this Parliament, every time the credibility of Prime Minister Tony Blair sank further into the depths, the credibility of their own party sank with it.
If Tony Blair is George W. Bush’s poodle, the Conservative party is the poodle’s poodle or, as Jonathan Swift might have put it, the flea’s flea: ‘Naturalists observe, a flea/hath smaller fleas that on him prey,’ he wrote, ‘And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em,/and so proceed ad infinitum.
As a journalist I got used to asking questions. As an apprentice politician I’ve had to get used to answering them. And that has meant learning all over again that the simplest questions to ask are the trickiest to answer.
Most of my acquaintances have been extraordinarily encouraging about my decision to relinquish a journalistic career at the Times in the hope of being elected as the MP for Surrey Heath.