Monday, October 06, 2003

The royal road to the conservative soul?

A horrible experience this morning! BBC Radio 5 running a phone in about the former Conservative minister David Mellor (you know, the weird fatfaced one who was appointed Secretary of State for National Heritage by Major - they called him the "minister for fun", but he was sacked for having quite a lot of fun with a former model called Antonia de Sancha whilst wearing a Chelsea football shirt) who has declared that Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (you probably don't know...) is (I paraphrase) a mass of waste that should be dumped at sea. Not that there's anything new about senior Tories doing any of this - it's become a sort of ritual for, about every three months, a conservative to suddenly spring up like a jack-in-the-box and vent his spleen all over IDS. Then, after a couple of days of frenzied coverage, they calm down and a parade of shadow (and often shadowy) ministers appear and proclaim religiously their utter loyalty to The Leader, before racing off to catch up on their plotting against him. Routine.

This occasion, though, appears to have triggered unexpected passions within the breast of Torydom. And what a horrible thought that is. Here is a woman calling from - CHRIST! - my home town to say that "I blame you. I blame the BBC and the newspapers. All you ever do is Denigrate! Our! Leaders! I mean, I don't care if he is bald or not bald, he's not an actor like this Blair, with his promises...and he's not keeping his curly locks too well IS HE?" The presenter attempted to break in to allow a second Tory to comment, but she would not be silenced..."Iain Duncan Smith is our Leader and he will win the general election, he will look after pensioners whether or not we are given the air time we have a RIGHT! to..." This time Julian Worricker did switch over on her, but apparently she could not be shut off entirely as the next contributor was repeatedly interrupted by a sort of murbling racket - a mixture of rumbling, burbling, and mumbling which clearly expressed hate although it could not be more closely examined. The other caller was as powerfully in favour of Mellor's comments as she had been against - a chap called Harry from Wolverhampton with a strange, highly strung voice, who kept rising to a falsetto as he ranted. He pointed out that the party needed a candidate for prime minister, not to be favourite son-in-law - a mistake, as it stuck in her mind and caused her to repeat endlessly that she didn't have a son in law. Then up flipped another Margaret to lay into Harry..."What has this Mellor to do with us? He IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE! We are the conservatives!"

What was especially alarming was this weird, cultish leader veneration, as well as the amazing degree of violence and aggression in their voices. Everything was either an attack on Our! Leader! and hence on Britain! or it was distrustful, traitorous, denigrating...for example, here's Margaret(2) in action:

"If it wasn't for Tories there would not be a Britain! Our greatest leader, Winston Churchill - if it had all been about Looks then, whether or not he was bald, what would have happened? We would not be talking here today!"

Just a pity that Churchill had to rejoin the Tories in a hurry when he became prime minister because he hadn't been a Tory since about 1905...or that the top Cnservative of his day, Lord Halifax, would have made terms with Hitler had he become PM. It's also a pity that the Tory basis appears to contain so many people who are quite mad, and that their blind obedience appears to let them believe - really believe - that IDS's new course of doing everything the Tories were against until last year has any meaning at all. The big news on Tories at the moment is the split between IDS and Michael Howard that is coming. IDS surely can't go on pouring out public spending commitments at this rate whilst claiming to be the low tax party without his shadow chancellor resisting. On pensions, education and pretty much everything they have offered an opinion on, IDS and David Willetts are writing cheques Michael Howard can't cash.

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