Tag Archives: Conservative Party

Of MPs, moats and the levelling tendency

Is it wrong to feel mildly envious of those of you who’re enjoying the scandal over MPs’ expenses so very much more than I am? Possibly so. Envy is, after all, not a particularly attractive emotion. Subliminally, I suppose what’s so unattractive about it is that it’s the province of losers, the under-performers, the perpetual have-nots, in the same way that whatever else kindness may signal, it’s about possession, competence and success, however relative in measure. So, perhaps I should simply try to find more goodwill in my heart towards the various circumstances that are — according to the media at any rate — triggering a ‘revolution’ amongst our parliamentarians, fired by the righteous angry zeal — so the media tell us once again — of an outraged British electorate.

Yet, truth be told, this ‘revolution’ feels more depressing than inspiring. For one thing, it’s gone on too long already, and I don’t just mean the past fourteen days, either. Remember Nannygate, anyone? Nearly a year ago, most of the scenery had already been dragged into place: the rules on parliamentary expenses exposed as a sort of Montessori-style ‘prepared environment’ in which the full wide spectrum of human nature might freely be expressed, David Cameron’s habitual cringing deference to each passing day’s media narrative already dressed up as ‘ruthlessness’ (if not actually ‘setting the agenda’), public fury already more often assumed or asserted by those who felt the public ought to be furious than actually displayed (at least without aggressive prompting) on the part of the general public, who seem to me, at any rate, far more illusionless regarding the qualities of the political classes than some of those classes, or their friends in the media, fully comprehend. Continue reading


Filed under civil war, politics, religion, Tory things

On the Ken Clarke mistake

Blue Monday indeed! I awoke this morning only to discover Ken Clarke’s face on the front page of the BBC News website. The occasion for this is, it seems, David Cameron’s striking decision to mark yet another government bail-out of the banking system — plus the inauguration of the new, glamorous, wildly popular 47-year old US president — by begging a tired, serially unsuccessful and far from popular 68-year old parliamentary colleague to accept the role of business secretary within the Conservative shadow cabinet.

The enormity of this mistake has very little to do with Clarke’s well-rehearsed Europhile enthusiasms. For one thing, Clarke’s no more out of step with mainstream party sentiment on this than he is on plenty of other issues. At the same time, the leadership itself is now so oblivious of mainstream party sentiment, where it isn’t simply aware of it and hence contemptuous of it, that Clarke’s weirder eccentricities (dreaming of a coalition with the LibDems, for instance) hardly register. Continue reading


Filed under politics

On not writing about politics

Somewhere in this study, hidden under piles of other books and papers, lurks my copy of The Abbess of Crewe, Muriel Spark’s feline, semi-funny Watergate novel. Since, however, I can’t find it anywhere — although I did, at least, find a fat hardback by Peter Fuller that I’d forgotten I owned — a paraphrase of the relevant passage will have to suffice.

There’s a point, early on in The Abbess of Crewe, where the elegant, Machiavellian, vaguely tragic abbess of the title rings up gruff-voiced, globe-trotting, Kissingeresque and not entirely reliable Sister Gertrude, seeking advice on some pressing problem. ‘A problem you solve,’ crackles the answer down the line, before explaining that the situation troubling the Abbess is, instead, a paradox. ‘Have you time for a very short seminar, Gertrude, on how one treats of a paradox?’ asks the Abbess, as sweetly as she can manage. ‘A paradox you live with,’ replies Sister Gertrude, before ringing off.

Thus in the right sort of mood it should be possible to construe the omission of any overt political content on this notionally right-of-centre blog — an omission that’s been particularly acute over the past six months — less as a problem than, well, a paradox.

Some readers will, perhaps, insist that the paradox is more apparent than genuine, if only because it’s almost impossible to write anything without expressing a hierarchy of preferences that’s inherently susceptible to translation, accurately or otherwise, into the language of politics. Even omissions can thus be made to stand as credos. Or to put it another way, if the spectre of Mrs Thatcher surfaces in my art-related writing rather more than some might regard as entirely healthy, then it’s worth remembering that the Cambridge of my youth was a place in which even the most basic facts of late medieval and early modern English history could only be transmitted, or so it appeared, if intercut at every possible point with effusions of the rawest sort of Thatcher-hating rhetoric — attributions of selfishness, callousness and philistinism which construed these as necessarily conservative errors, self-evidently absent elsewhere across the political spectrum — so that, even now, invoking Mrs Thatcher without simultaneously saying something unpleasant about her still counts as a political gesture, a wilful step outside the pale of civilised cultural discourse, an exercise in outing oneself as culpably ‘right wing’. All of which is, of course, why I do it as often as possible. Continue reading


Filed under politics

A very guilty pleasure: Caroline Spelman’s nanny scandal

Even more exciting than the decade-old details of a fairly obscure MP’s childcare arrangements (and anyone who wants to argue that, in the general scheme of things, the chairmanship of the Conservative Party is, per se, a major claim to public recognition really needs to shut down the web-browser now and start getting out just that little bit more) is the rift that’s developed on the right-of-centre end of the blogosphere, over the past 48 hours, regarding the matter of Caroline Spelman MP: her probity, her culpability, the embattled cul-de-sac that is her short-term political future.

On one side of the rift, exemplifying Mrs Spelman’s defenders, is Iain Dale, who, despite hardly knowing her, is confident enough of her merits to pronounce her a Decent and Honest Woman. The basic line he takes is Voltaire’s durable tout comprendre, c’est tout pardoner one: Mrs Spelman was under a lot of pressure, she meant no harm, and anyway she regularised her secretarial arrangements as soon as it was pointed out to her that it did rather look as if she was using public funds to subsidise her nanny’s salary. Continue reading

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Sunshine now, clouds later

In London this morning, something’s definitely changed. One can feel it in the air. For the first time in weeks, the sky is bright blue beneath the softest veil of clouds and the sun is shining fearlessly, while the slightly damp air is warm enough, just, to presage the onset of our much-delayed spring.

The peaceful transfer of political power is, I suppose, so basically counterintuitive as to drive any susceptible observer, from time to time, into the arms of the pathetic fallacy. Why is it, though, that the weather on the day of any significant British election result is always beautiful? So incandescently bright and sunny, for instance, was the morning of New Labour’s apotheosis on 2 May 1997 — a sort of public holiday declared by Nature herself, apparently, to mark the long-awaited climacteric — that even Alastair Campbell, not given to gratuitous scene-setting, fought free of his own self-imposed rhetorical mode long enough to confess to his diary that this was ‘another lovely sunny day’, as indeed it was. For the losers, on the other hand, for the Tories as we wandered through that magnificent morning, bewildered and outraged and heartbroken, the sunshine only added to the air of disorientation. ‘It was not a thing done in a corner,’ the regicides said of the judicial murder of Charles I; in 1997, it was as if the consummation of New Labour’s various ambitions, more and less obvious, could only take place in very bright daylight indeed. Continue reading


Filed under London, politics, Tory things